Prisoner Connections With Families Hampered by High Phone Charges

A buck a minute? Really?


Espinola Quinn's children haven't spoken to their father in more than two months. He is in prison in Louisiana, and an inmate phone account costs upwards of $25 to set up and then must be reloaded regularly. Individual calls from a Louisiana prison or jail cost about 30 cents a minute, too much for the family to afford, Ms. Quinn told the Louisiana Public Service Commission last month.

"I have the 10-year-old, who wants to hear from her father. 'Mom, can Dad call? Can he call this month?'" said Quinn, who was testifying in support of a proposed rate cut for inmate phone calls. "The telephone calls are really all [my children] have, and in some cases and some months, they don't even have that."

Quinn's experience is not unusual. In Louisiana and many states across the country, outgoing calls made by prison inmates can cost nearly $1 per minute, according to a 2011 report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office. In Mississippi, a 15 minute long-distance call costs an average of $14.55. In Colorado, all local calls from prison cost a flat rate of $2.75 plus 23 cents per minute, according to a national analysis of phone contracts with correctional facilities conducted by Prison Legal News.