Over the last few decades, a system has developed in the prison communications industry whereby the prisons themselves are able to keep a substantial portion of the total revenues earned from outgoing calls. This system, referred to by some as a system of legal kickbacks, has actually been a crucial source of funding for many of the nation’s prisons, making up for budgetary shortfalls caused by local and state budgets that were unable to fund the prisons completely.
However, in many cases, the system has led to particularly high rates for prisoners in various jurisdictions throughout the United States. In some cases, such as that of the state of Arizona, prisoners have been forced to pay up to $1.50 per minute on outgoing phone calls, making it virtually impossible for anyone but the most well-heeled prisoners to stay in contact with their loved ones on the outside.
Many prisoners, families and prisoner rights groups have pointed out that this is actually counterproductive. Allowing prisoners to stay in constant touch with their family members not only is a great service to families, particularly young children who may not otherwise have their fathers in their lives, but it is also a way to maintain a high level of safety in the prison itself. This is because prisoners that are able to maintain meaningful relationships with loved ones on the outside are less likely to commit serious crimes while incarcerated. Those prisoners that are able to stay well-socialized with law-abiding citizens on the outside of prison are also less likely to internalize the social norms of prison life in the milieu of hardened and often violent criminals.
Because of this, Securus Technologies, the leading communications provider for prisons across the country, is doing a great service by providing cheap outgoing calling rates to the majority of prisons in which it operates.