How Parents in Prison Lose Their Kids Because They Can't Afford to Call Home


Earlier this year, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) declared "the era of unreasonable and unjust" prison phone call costs over.

The declaration came after the regulatory body's new rate caps went into effect for interstate phone calls made from federal, state, and local correctional facilities. 

So, why are prison phone calls so expensive?

Well, according to a survey of prison phone contracts by Prison Legal News, it's because contracts go to the highest bidder—not the lowest.

An exhaustive analysis of prison phone contracts nationwide has revealed that with only limited exceptions, telephone service providers offer lucrative kickbacks (politely termed "commissions") to state contracting agencies – amounting on average to 42% of gross revenues from prisoners'phone calls – in order to obtain exclusive, monopolistic contracts for prison phone services….

This is because prison phone companies don't "compete" in the usual sense. They don't have to offer lower phone rates to match those of their competitors, as prison phone contracts typically are based on the highest commission paid, not the lowest phone rates. Free market competition is thus largely absent in the prison phone industry, at least from the perspective of the consumer – mainly prisoners' families.

While the FCC has imposed price caps on interstate prison calls, it is still mulling over what it can do to reform how states' price their local prison phone calls.

Last month MEY Legal Services, "a non-profit law firm that provides free civil legal assistance to New York City's poorest communities," sent a letter to the FCC about how the high cost of prison visits and phone calls not only provide a hardship to poorer families but—due to some state laws—can result in the termination of parental rights.

Under New York law, "a parent who fails to visit or communicate with his or her child or designated caregiver for six months is deemed to have forfeited his or her parental rights," according to the letter. That obligation does not change when a parent is sent to prison and, in fact, incarcerated parents "bear the burden of convincing a judge that they were unable to communicate with their children or provide financial assistance while in prison."

This pertains mostly to parents in prison for non-violent offences, as generally someone convicted of a violent crime will immediately lose their parental rights.

The number of parents in prison has also increased at disturbing rate; the U.S. has the highest incarceration rate in the world. (You can thank the war on drugs for that.)

Since 1991, the number of children with a mother in prison has more than doubled, up 131%. The number of children with a father in prison has grown by 77%. This finding reflects a faster rate of growth in the number of mothers held in state and federal prisons (up 122%), compared to the number of fathers (up 76%) between 1991 and midyear 2007.

Losing a parent to the prison system can be devastating to a child but maintaining family contact during a parent's incarceration can be beneficial for both parties. 

Crony capitalism and bad laws shouldn't make it so that the high price of a simple phone call winds up costing a parent their child.


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  1. Let’s see. Do I commit the crime with a chance of getting caught and becoming separated from my children or do I man up and do right by my children by staying on the straight and narrow?

    1. The choice is made for you. Everything has been criminalized.

      1. Everything? Nothing exists in America is law-free or decriminalized? Is that true? There isn’t one thing?

        1. Everything that is not expressly authorized is prohibited.

    2. Yeah, because no one innocent ever goes to prison or goes for absurd victimless crimes. Fuck you, dickwad.

      1. And the percentage of the innocent in prison is what, clueless wonder?

        1. Too high, in any event. Far too high.

          1. Do you have a figure? A percentage?

            No doubt, we’re in agreement that many deeds decreed to be crimes ought not to be. Authentic libertarians like me split from pseudo-libertarians like the cultists of because as authentic libertarians we call for de-criminalization. Crypto-republican Reasonoids calls for legalization.

            Legalization is an anti-libertarian stance, of course. And yet, that is all the Fonzie of Reason, Nick Gillespie, preaches.


            1. Yeah, legalizing victimless crimes/promoting lenience for convicts/expressing skepticism for sentencing guidelines colors Republicans up and down. It’s almost as though the running threads of SOCON/traditional values voting through the past several decades was a ruse to occlude their secret compassion for petty drug-users caught up in a pitiless criminal justice complex.

              And all that abortion debate? Just further concealing the crypto-libertarian leanings of the GOP.

              1. Abortion already is politically-sanctioned, legalized murder.


                The pseudo-libertarian cult of driven by crypto-republican handlers amuses.

            2. At least 50% of my clients who go to jury trial are acquitted. At least 50% of them are held on high bail they can’t afford and so they sit in prison for 6-24 months.

              So, from my personal experience, at least 25% at any given time.

    3. Lick that boot!

    4. Man up? Do u even squat, bro?

      1. Should I reply to your silly lame attempt at ad hominem through innuendo with something like “I squat over your mom, tea bagging and gagging her while your dad watches?”

        Nah, I am not going to get into the sewer with you.

        Good luck!

    5. I was going to give you a C- for epic dickhead trolling, but you caught a few, so I’m giving you a B.

      1. And this article isn’t trolling? How is that, exactly?

        The article is little more than further indoctrination reinforcement by the crypto-republicans who run and pwn own your mind.

        The convicted criminal and parent violated the NAP and thus screwed over both everyone else as well as his or her kiddies.

        1. Half of the people in prison didn’t violate the NAP. That’s the point moron.

          1. Half of the people in prison didn’t violate the NAP. That’s the point moron.

            ~ crazyfingers

            Oh and you know with this certainty, how, exactly? You can list for the world each prisoner’s name, detail his crime and decree assuredly that such a prisoner didn’t violate the NAP?

            So who is the moron here? Do you have a mirror? Quick. Run to it and look into it!

            1. You’re not very smart, are you? Were you dropped a lot as a kid or was it something that had adolescent onset?

              I know, I know, we shouldn’t be mean to the retarded, but sometimes they have it coming, because they’re law and order cunts.

              1. Have you ever contributed anything relevant to anyone’s life, even your own?

        2. At what point does drug possession violate the NAP?

          1. Being imprisoned means never being able to see your children again. Full stop. No mitigating circumstances. No such thing as a bad law.

            It’s the smart thing to do. It’s the right thing to do. For the children. Children of felons.

    6. State cock is the tastiest cock.

      1. State cock? Do you mean like legalized marriage for homosexists? Do you mean like legalizing illegal aliens? Do you mean like legalizing pot smoking and collecting taxes from it?

        Enjoy your dick sucking then.

    7. F- trolling there asshat.

    8. So part of their punishment should be losing contact with their children even though that hurts the children.

      Well that’s fair after all they did plead guilty, which must mean they were.

  2. Well I never would have believed it had anything to do with cronyism.

    But I have a solution. How about we stop throwing people into the dungeons for victimless crimes and pretend like it’s not still the dark ages?

    1. You’re in the metro DC area, right? Meetup today in NoVA, in case you’re free.

  3. See, this is another incentive not to commit crime. Cause crime DOES NOT PAY.

    So, if you’ve done nothing wrong, you’re OK – and if you do, you’re going to pay for it.

    Seems fair.

    /Average Ameritard?

    1. I like that word, Ameritard, I think I’m gonna use it. I hope we don’t get into a trademark war over my ‘limiited’ usage.

  4. “Dial 1010-THEBITCHSETMEUP.”

    While the FCC has imposed price caps on interstate prison calls, it is still mulling over what it can do to reform how states’ price their local prison phone calls.

    And when a state does do the decent thing and charges market prices, they’ll be hailed for their brave prison reforms.

  5. I have a relative in a Kentucky prison. When I first set it up so he could call his mother, the rates were horrific – 20 or 30 bucks for 15 minute call. I don’t know what changed, but now the rates are pretty normal: a 15 minute call is less than 5 bucks and I have companies calling me trying to undercut even that.
    EVERYTHING he buys in there is ridiculously overpriced and you can only send him stuff from a small list of approved vendors. I wanted to send him my old magazines but he can only receive magazines directly from the publisher. I assume somebody is getting kickbacks. At least I can send him books from Amazon. By the way, he’s probably innocent of what he’s in there for, but he’s gotten away with a LOT of illegal shit his whole life, so…karma’s a bitch.

  6. Amusingly, pulls out the “It’s for the Chirren! argument.

    What is next? Rooooadssss! Somalia!

    1. Pretty sure you’re KK or Mary, now run along and fuck off.

      1. Wrong: “Pretty sure you’re…”

        Better: I’m almost sure …

        You ought to learn what a subject is and what a verb is.

        Good luck!

        p.s. Facts remain. pulls out the “It’s for the Chirren! argument, the same lame-o argument liberals use to justify public education, all kinds of welfare, and by extension income taxation.

        Crypto-republicans who don’t know libertarianism at all always deliver amusement. Thanks spanky!

    2. When someone is doing something that actually hurts children as opposed to having them see a boob, it’s legitimate.

  7. Prison is a money making machine that is all that matters.

  8. Prison is a money making machine that is all that matters.

  9. Prison is a money making machine that is all that matters.

    1. GEEZ!! The squirrel got to ANONBOT!

  10. What could possibly go wrong with cutting people in prison off from every possible stabilising influence that might exist in their lives?

    1. Those influences stabilized them so much they decided to shun those influences and commit crimes.

      Again, when faced with deciding between committing crime with the chance of getting caught and becoming separated from one’s children or manning up and doing right by one’s children by staying on the straight and narrow, the caught-and-convicted criminal decided on the former.

      Now,’s Brittany Ann Morrisey has made the leftist / liberal “but it’s for the children” appeal and every dope follower of the cult has been suckered.

      1. It’s not just “caught and convicted” criminals that go to jail. If you are charged with a crime and cannot afford bail you sit in prison. That can be a long time before you get to trial. Should those who have been convicted of no crime be denied phone access to their families as well?

      2. “Those influences stabilized them so much they decided to shun those influences and commit crimes.”
        So let’s kill any chance that they might turn him around. Yeah you’re a dick.

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