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Advocates Push for Free Phone Calls in Connecticut Prisons

The state collects more than $7 million annually from prison calls, but House Bill 6714 would end that funding stream. Some have testified to spending as much as $4.87 for a three-minute call with an incarcerated loved one.

by Daniela Altimari, The Hartford Courant / May 29, 2019
David Kidd/e.Republic

(TNS) — With time running out on Connecticut's 2019 legislative session, advocates are pushing for passage of a bill that would eliminate the cost of calling from the state’s prisons.

On Tuesday, the bill cleared the legislature’s appropriations committee and is currently pending in the House of Representatives,

"We are waiting for it to be called for an actual vote,'' said Bianca Tylek, executive director of Worth Rises, a national advocacy group that works on criminal justice issues. "We understand there’s a little bit of negotiations happening between the House Democrats and the House Republicans.''

House Bill 6714 would remove the cost for prison phone calls. Several family members of those incarcerated testified that they are spending up to $4.87 for a three-minute call. The steep price hampers their ability to stay in touch with their loved ones behind bars, they said.

The telecommunications provider for the state’s prisons, Securus Technologies, had sought to kill the measure, but earlier this month, the firm dropped its opposition. The state collects more than $7 million annually from the calls.

Tylek was joined by lawmakers and advocates at a press conference Tuesday at the legislative office building.

"It is important we get this done,'' said Rep. Robyn Porter, D-New Haven, “because when people are incarcerated, most families cannot even afford the phone calls. So that’s a problem.”

Porter said family ties are key links for offenders. "Yes, they committed a crime....they’re doing the time. But it doesn’t mean we have to strip them of their dignity,'' she said. “We should not be stripping them from their families and we should certainly be providing communication at the least through a phone call without the state making a profit.”

©2019 The Hartford Courant (Hartford, Conn.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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