Connecticut has gone from charging some of the highest rates in the nation for prison phone calls to providing them free of charge. A vendor with the state contract has been charging as much as $5 for a 15-minute call, WTNH reports. Inmates, including juveniles, will now be entitled to at least 90 minutes of phone time per day, eliminating a financial and emotional barrier to families trying to stay connected. "Corporations can no longer be allowed to exploit the love between incarcerated people and their families—not in our state, not on our watch," said a sponsor of the legislation, per USA Today. The governor has signed the legislation, which could take effect early next month. Connecticut, which is holding 8,960 people in its system, is the first state to make prison and jail calls free.
The current charges were a motivator among legislators, per the Hartford Courant. "When someone who is incarcerated wants to call home, wants to call a loved one, stay in touch with kids, stay in touch with family, with friends, with support network in the community," another lawmaker said, "the state of Connecticut has been gouging them for years." Inmates who are in touch with their families are less likely to wind up back in prison, he said. A price reduction had been announced that would have taken effect in July, but it would have dropped the state's phone charges only from 50th least affordable in the nation to 45th. Much of the reason is the 68% commission the state takes on phone charges, per CT News Junkie. (Read more prison stories.)