Keep Families Connected: Demand NY Lawmakers Make Prison/Jail Calls Free

New York State Lawmakers

For years prison telecom corporations have made enormous profits off of incarcerated people and their loved ones, charging up to $15 for a 15-minute phone call, raking in a whopping $1.4 billion a year. However, in New York State we have an unprecedented opportunity to make phone calls free from all state correctional and juvenile detention facilities.

There are currently two active bills in both the State Assembly and Senate that, if passed, would provide incarcerated people with 90 minutes of free phone communication per day.

Thankfully due to years of powerful activism, there is political will for both of these bills to be passed. However, in order for this legislation to be put into practice funding must be allocated within New York State’s budget.

In order for phone calls to be free for incarcerated people in New York State, Governor Kathy Hochul must allocate funds in the state budget for The Connecting Families Act.

Right now, the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, the state’s prison system, charges 30 cents per 15-minute phone call.

Communication — staying in touch with our loved ones — has always been a lifeline for each of us. During the pandemic, we have come to more fully understand how important communication and relationships are for mental and emotional health and how debilitating isolation can be.

Yet for many families with incarcerated loved ones, the high cost of phone calls has been a major barrier to staying in touch, especially as in-person visits to prisons and jails were abruptly suspended at the beginning of the pandemic. This made it nearly impossible for many families to stay connected and was particularly challenging for Black, Latinx, and economically distressed communities--who’ve continued to bear the brunt of both the pandemic and mass incarceration. 1

Amid the dual crises of a public health pandemic and subsequent economic devastation, it is even more critical, now more than ever, that we make communication free for incarcerated people across New York State.

That’s why we’re making our demands clear: Every family deserves to stay connected. It’s crucial that we call on New York Governor Kathy Hochul to secure funding for The Connecting Families Act, and make communication free for incarcerated people and their loved ones.

We’re fighting for legislation that would end the extraction of wealth from Black and Brown families, and we need your help to both make sure this critical legislation is signed into law and backed by funding from the New York state budget. Sign the petition to hold NY Governor Kathy Hochul accountable, and to demand free communication for all incarcerated New Yorkers.

1. Lives on the line: Women with Incarcerated Loved Ones and the Impact of COVID-19 Behind Bars (Report). Essie Justice Group & Color Of Change.
Sponsored by
Oakland, CA

To: New York State Lawmakers
From: [Your Name]

Communication has always been a lifeline for each of us. Now, amid the dual crises
of a public health pandemic and subsequent economic devastation, it is even more

New York should not be restricting access to basic communication or allowing
corporations to exploit families’ desperate need to stay connected. As a legislator, you have the power to deliver relief for your constituents and their loved ones. That's why we're calling on you and your colleagues in the NY State Legislature to make phone calls free for all incarcerated New Yorkers.

Now more than ever, we must be empathetic to how important communication and
staying connected with family can be for mental health. Conversely, we know how debilitating isolation can be. So, as New Yorkers struggle to stay connected despite social distancing and stay afloat financially, they should not be subjected to the added stress of wondering if their incarcerated loved ones will next be able to call or how they will be able to afford it.

New York can end these restrictive policies and predatory rates today.
Connecting Families — a coalition that includes Color Of Change, Worth Rises, The Osborne Association, Fines & Fees Justice Center, and other advocates for prison phone justice — supports legislation that grants New Yorkers the ability to communicate with their incarcerated loved ones at no cost and codifies increased access to phones and email kiosks across all state prisons and county jails. Doing so would rightly alleviate further economic distress on families across New York.

Families should not have to suffer and struggle to stay connected, especially during a pandemic. We're calling on you to pass critical legislation to end the looting of resources from the most vulnerable New Yorkers.

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