State of Phone Justice: Local Jails, State Prisons and Private Phone Providers

Prison Policy Initiative logoAt a time when the cost of a typical phone call is approaching zero, people behind bars in the U.S. are often forced to pay astronomical rates to call their loved ones or lawyers because phone companies bait prisons and jails into charging high phone rates in exchange for a share of the revenue. While the industry has become considerably fairer in the past decade, the vast majority of that progress has been in state-run prisons. In county- and city-run jails—where predatory contracts get little attention—in-state phone calls can still cost $1 per minute or more, and companies can charge hidden fees. This report from the Prison Policy Initiative shows how these high rates and fees can be disastrous for people incarcerated in local jails because it punishes people who have yet to be convicted, drives up costs for their appointed counsel, and makes it harder for them to contact family members and others who might help them post bail or build their defense. It also puts them at risk of losing their jobs, housing, and custody of their children while they are in jail awaiting trial.