by Dr. Artika Tyner
Director of Diversity, Faculty-Community Justice Project
Did you know over 15,000 children in Minnesota may not have the chance to send holiday greetings to their parents? This is because these children have an incarcerated parent and due to the high costs of prison phone calls it is difficult for many of these children to remain in contact with their parents during the holiday season. The harsh reality is that a fifteen minute collect phone call received from a loved one who is incarcerated can cost up to $17. Further, these children may also miss the opportunity to visit and spend quality time with their parents since prisoners are incarcerated an average of 100 miles away from home and their families. As you can see, phone calls are truly a vital source of communication in order for families to remain connected. The Campaign for Prison Phone Justice seeks to ensure that children and families can remain in contact with their incarcerated loved ones by advocating for the costs of prison phone calls to be capped at a reasonable amount.
The high cost of prison phone calls is due to the associated commissions paid to prisons from phone companies. Prisons and phone companies enter into contracts for phone services. As a result, these phone companies pay commissions to the prisons. In Minnesota, state prisons receive 49% commissions on phone calls made from prisons which generate $1.5 million in revenue each year. In turn, families must bear the burden of choosing between accepting a loved one’s call from prison and meeting their basic budgetary needs. Many families will be forced to make these difficult decisions over the holiday season and throughout the upcoming year. To learn more about how you can help to promote strong families by supporting prison phone justice, please visit the Campaign’s website: http://nationinside.org/campaign/prison-phone-justice/