Michigan state House bill would eliminate fees to call a loved one in jail

Studies show phone contact reduces recidivism and has a positive impact on children with an incarcerated parent

click to enlarge A Michigan House bill would eliminate fees for calling a loved one in jail. - Shutterstock
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A Michigan House bill would eliminate fees for calling a loved one in jail.

In Roscommon County, a 15-minute phone call to a loved one in jail costs $22.56.

The price of calling an incarcerated person in county jails, state prisons, and juvenile facilities vary by county, but the fees and charges are often too high to regularly stay in touch with a loved one, advocates say.

State Rep. Tenisha Yancey, D-Harper Woods, introduced a bill on Wednesday that would eliminate the fees and charges of making phone calls to state prisons and county jails. If passed, the bill would save loved one of incarcerated people tens of millions of dollars on phone bills, Yancey said.

“Prison phone rates are astronomical, and it places a huge burden on families and friends trying to reach the people they care about,” Yancey said in a statement. “I introduced this bill so that families can connect with their loved ones who are in jail. Studies have shown that staying engaged with family members reduces the chance of recidivism once citizens return home. Plus, allowing families to connect is simply the humane thing to do.”

Michigan ranks 12th in the nation with the most expensive phone call rates to jails.

The bill also would require a minimum number of phones are available at prisons, jails and juvenile facilities to guarantee that incarcerated people are able to use the phone for two hours a day.

“At a time when record inflation is making many families decide between gasoline or food on the table, the last thing they should have to cut out of their budget is keeping in touch with mom or dad,” said Josh Hoe, senior policy analyst for Safe & Just Michigan, a group that advocates for criminal justice reform. “Repeated studies show that people who have kept close ties to their families are more likely to thrive when they come home from jail or prison — but staying close with family is hard to do when you can’t afford to talk with each other.”

Studies have shown that phone contact reduces recidivism and has a positive impact on children who has a parent behind bars.

“Being smart on crime means remembering the goals of the corrections system — such as rehabilitation, reducing harm and reintegration — when setting corrections policy,” Hoe said. “Encouraging families to remain connected to their loved ones during incarceration promotes these goals, making Michigan safer for all of us. Reducing phone fees is a wise investment in Michigan communities.”

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About The Author

Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling is an award-winning investigative journalist who operated Motor City Muckraker, an online news site devoted to exposing abuses of power and holding public officials accountable. Neavling also hosted Muckraker Report on 910AM from September 2017 to July 2018. Before launching Motor City Muckraker,...
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