In County Roscommon, a 15-minute phone call to a loved one in jail costs $22.56.
The price of calling someone incarcerated in county jails, state jails and juvenile facilities varies by county, but the fees and charges are often too high to keep in touch with a loved one on a regular basis, say the lawyers.
State Rep. Tenisha Yancey, D-Harper Woods, introduced a bill Wednesday that would eliminate fees and charges for phone calls to state prisons and county jails. If passed, the bill would save a loved one of those incarcerated tens of millions of dollars on phone bills, Yancey said.
“Prison phone rates are astronomical and this places an enormous burden on families and friends trying to reach loved ones,” Yancey said in a statement. “I introduced this bill so that families can communicate with loved ones who are in prison. Studies have shown that staying engaged with family members reduces the risk of recidivism once citizens return home. Plus, allowing families to connect is simply the human thing to do.
Michigan ranks 12th in the country with the most expensive phone call rates to prisons.
The bill would also require that a minimum number of phones be available in jails, jails and juvenile facilities to ensure that incarcerated people can use the phone for two hours a day.
“At a time when record inflation is forcing many families to choose between gas or food on the table, the last thing they should have to cut from their budget is keeping in touch with mom or dad,” said Josh Hoe, senior policy analyst for Safe & Just Michigan, a group that advocates for criminal justice reform. “Repeated studies show that people who have kept close ties to their family are more likely to thrive when they return from jail or prison – but staying close to family is hard to do when you can’t. to talk to each other.”
“Being smart about crime means remembering the goals of the correctional system — such as rehabilitation, harm reduction and reintegration — when setting correctional policy,” Hoe said. “Encouraging families to stay connected with loved ones while incarcerated furthers these goals, making Michigan safer for all of us. Reducing phone charges is a smart investment in Michigan communities.