Connecticut Lawmakers Push to End Predatory Prison Phone Rates

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Connecticut lawmakers are preparing for their second attempt at passing a bill that would make prison phone and video calls free for incarcerated people and their loved ones, reports The Intercept. Connecticut is now the most expensive state in the country for prison phone calls, after Arkansas renegotiated its rates. A 15-minute phone call between an incarcerated person in Connecticut and a family member costs nearly $5, at $0.21-$0.325 per minute. Rhode Island, its next-door neighbor for example, charges $0.029 per minute. Connecticut uses commissions from its prison phone calls as a way to subsidize other parts of its corrections system. Families spend over $14 million per year to talk to their loved ones behind bars, and under the negotiated contract, the state takes $7.7 million in kickbacks, with the rest going to Securus Technologies, the national prison telecommunications corporation that Connecticut has contracted with since 2012 and that was partly responsible for the failure of a similar bill introduced in 2016.

In 2019, a spokesperson for the state’s judicial branch testified that losing prison phone call commission fees would mean the state would have to eliminate adult probation office positions. Meanwhile, Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont, who grew his personal fortune through the telecommunications industry, released his budget earlier this month and proposed allocating just $1 million to reduce the cost of prison phone calls. The Connecticut Connecting Families coalition blasted the governor for “backtracking,” noting that $1 million is just 20 percent of what Lamont had committed to in an address last year, before the pandemic. Connecticut is also projecting a $70 million budget surplus this year, despite the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

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