In the age of free phone calls and Skype, one group of people is still paying exorbitant rates for talk time: prisoners. The bill for a typical 15 minute state-to-state call tops $16 in some areas.
Prison calling services differ from typical payphones in some crucial ways. They can block inmates from making calls to certain people, including judges or witnesses. They can’t dial 800 or 900 numbers, and phone conversations can be monitored. If a prisoner is repeatedly making a call to the same number, for instance, corrections officers might listen in or record future calls. The systems also periodically notify the recipient that the call is being placed from a jail.
That could end up saving federal and state governments money over time. A recent study from the Government Accountability Office found that contact with family “aids an inmate’s success when returning to the community” and lowers the chances that a prisoner will end up back in jail.