A National Perspective on Prison Telephone Systems
The following states offer both collect and prepaid or debit calling with reduced rates for the prepaid or debit calls:
The following states accept no commission on calls placed by incarcerated citizens:
State regulatory agencies in Alabama, Maine, and New Mexico have concluded that they can regulate calls originating from jails and prisons.
There are several states that have rather unique systems.
Prison telephone service providers in the majority of states now block collect calls if the telephone provider of the call recipient does not have a billing agreement with them. For example:
The only way Mary can receive collect calls is to deposit money (often a $50 minimum deposit) with Sprint. Mary may never receive an accounting of how the $50 is spent. Nor will she receive notice when the $50 has been exhausted. She will likely only discover that when another block is placed on the phone
United States Senator Wisconsin January 28, 2010
Senate Judiciary Committee
S. 1749, Cell Phone Contraband Act of 2010
Thursday, January 28, 2009
Statement of U.S. Senator Russell D. Feingold
I support Senator Feinstein's bill (to outlaw the possession of cell phones for incarcerated persons) and think we should be doing everything possible to ensure that inmates are not able to engage in criminal activity behind prison walls. I hope that this bill will discourage prison guards and family members from smuggling cell phones to prisoners. But there is an issue raised by this bill that we ought to consider before the bill goes to the floor.
As I understand it, many state and local prisons charge exorbitant rates for inmate telephone service. While other telecommunications rates have been declining over the last few decades, inmate phone rates have been climbing. Some prisons only offer collect calling services, and they charge up to four dollar connection fee and as much as one dollar a minute. These excessive rates are unacceptable, especially because it is usually the family members of the inmate who bear the brunt of these high fees. In addition, some prisons apparently receive what sounds a lot like a kickback from the providers of telephone service -- perhaps as much as 50% of the charges for the calls.
I realize that this can amount to a lot of money and prisons are reluctant to give up a source of funding on which they have come to rely, but I am concerned that the proliferation of cell phones in prisons may, in part, be due to this practice. I think this is something we need to look into, in order to both provide reasonable phone rates to prisoners' families, and also to reduce the incentive for smuggling cell phones. I hope that Senator Feinstein will be willing to work with me on this as the bill goes through the legislative process.
(Unanimously ratified by the ACA Delegate Assembly at the Winter Conference in Nashville, TN, January 24, 2001)
AMERICAN BAR ASSOCIATION
Criminal Justice Section
Approved by Criminal Justice Section Council 5.14.05
RESOLVED, that the American Bar Association encourages federal, state, territorial and local governments, consistent with the constraints of sound correctional management, law enforcement and national security principles, to afford prison and jail inmates every reasonable opportunity to maintain telephonic communication with the free community, and to offer telephone services in the correctional setting with an appropriate range of options at the lowest possible rates.
NAWJ supports H.R. 4466’s (now H.R. 1133) passage for the reasons set forth in Section 2 of that Legislation, which focuses on the dual reality: (1) that “…maintaining frequent and meaningful communications between people who are incarcerated and family members is key to the successful reintegration of formerly incarcerated individuals, [reducing] recidivism and [facilitating] rehabilitation, which in turn reduces crime and the future costs of imprisonment,” and (2) that the currently prevailing system often burdens or prevents frequent communications between incarcerated persons and family members, thereby weakening “the family and community ties that are necessary for successful reentry into society by persons who were formerly incarcerated and the reduction in crime resulting from successful reentry.”