You Get One Phone Call
Well actually, once you’re in jail you can call more than one person, but it’ll cost you. If you want to talk to someone who is locked up you better be ready to pay. The Department of Corrections can’t afford to pay the phone bills for every inmate, so that cost gets transferred to the inmates and their families.
Remember in the 90s when cell phone companies tracked your minutes and once you used all your minutes your phone was just a paperweight? The prison phone system is kind of like that, but you don’t get any free minutes and there’s definitely no rollover minutes.
When an inmate places a call it can cost as much as $3 for a 15-minute call. This high cost started causing issues, because families were having to choose between buying groceries and talking to their loved one in prison.
Several groups became aware of this situation and started taking action. One of those groups was the Federal Communication Commission (FCC). To keep costs down, the FCC passed a rule that caps the cost of calls for inmates.
The cap is set at $1.65 for a 15-minute call and will take place in March.
Beyond keeping costs down for families, who are typically low-income households, supporters of this rule hope this will help the inmates reenter society successfully. There has been research that suggests that when inmates have regular communication with family while they’re in prison, they are less likely to have problems when re-entering.
While the FCC and several other groups have come out in strong support of this rule, there is also heavy opposition. The Oklahoma Department of Corrections, The Oklahoma County Sheriff’s office and the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Association all are strongly against the new rule.
These opposition groups claim this cap will cut their budgets by $3,000,000. Currently, when inmates place calls, the prison gets a cut of the cost. The percentage of the cut varies, but in Oklahoma County prisons the prison gets 27 cents per minute.
Several petitions have been filed against the new rule, but for now it looks like the cap will take effect in March as scheduled. Funding the corrections system has always been a heated debate and will most likely continue to be that way. Let us know what you think about the cost cap and we’ll keep you posted on the petitions.