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End the duopoly

Affordable phone calls for the incarcerated take on new urgency in the pandemic

Color of Change and other social justice advocacy groups have launched a petition demanding free phone calls for the incarcerated, an issue that has become even more pressing during the pandemic. (Image from Color of Change’s Facebook page.) During this time of pandemic-related social distancing, phone conversations are helping people stay sane and connected. But incarcerated people, who are among the most vulnerable to the novel coronavirus, face significant barriers when it comes to accessing phone calls, which are more vital than ever given restrictions on in-person visits.

Prison telecommunications is a $1.2 billion industry dominated by Securus Technologies, headquartered in Carrolton, Texas, and Global Tel Ink, based in Falls Church, Virginia. These corporations could dramatically lower the cost of phone calls for the incarcerated, but they choose not to do so.

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Nationally, the average cost of a 15-minute call from jail is $5.74, but it can run as high as $25 . It is the loved ones of the incarcerated — disproportionately poor people of color — who typically bear the burden of these costs. Even before the pandemic response caused millions of people to lose their jobs, one-third of families with incarcerated loves ones went into debt trying to […]

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