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CT Will Be First State With Free Phone Calls To Juvenile Inmates

When Diane Lewis’ 17-year-old son was locked up in an adult prison, she got caught in a spiral of spending funds intended for household bills to stay in touch with him by telephone. “You do what mothers do. You sacrifice and you move it around,” the Hartford, Ct., mom said. “Sometimes the lights are going to go off, sometimes the gas is going to go off. But I’m going to speak to my child. I was spending hundreds and hundreds of dollars a month to speak to my son,” Lewis said. Pressured by advocacy groups, the Federal Communication Commission last year imposed ceilings on the costs of interstate calls from convicted people in prisons and the mainly pre-trial detainees in jails. Effective this July, Connecticut will become the first state where all calls between adult and juvenile inmates people and their families are free, the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange reports. Starting Aug. 1, Massachusetts will offer the incarcerated up to 10 minutes of free calls weekly. New York State legislators are considering a similar bill.

In 2019, New York City began assuming the cost of jail calls up to 21 minutes long. In 2020, San Francisco announced that all calls from its county jail would be free. Los Angeles County is considering a similar measure. Bianca Tylek, founder and executive director of New York City-based Worth Rises, is among criminal justice reform advocates who support those changes but believe they don’t go far enough. “Back in 2018, calls … would run as high as $25 for a 15-minute phone call,” Tylek said. “Thankfully, because of the advocacy of so many of our partners over these years, we’ve seen that come down pretty dramatically. Today, the most expensive call is about $1 per minute … $1 a minute is nothing to be proud of,” she said. Only seven states do not have inordinately high call costs or widely varying costs among correctional facilities run by either the county, state or federal government.


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