The rates that inmates incarcerated in American prisons have to pay to make outgoing phone calls have long been a contentious issue. Many groups, including the Prison Policy Initiative, have concluded that the rates that inmates are forced to pay throughout much of the country are exorbitant, constituting a violation of civil rights. They back these statements up by pointing to states such as Arizona, where the average outgoing phone call costs inmates more than $1.50 per minute.
These groups often contend that the ability of inmates to cheaply call their loved ones from the nation’s prisons is more than a privilege, it is a public good. To back this up, they cite surveys and studies that conclude that inmate who are able to stay in frequent touch with their loved ones while incarcerated often have far superior outcomes when released back into society. These inmates not only have lower rates of recidivism, they also are able to maintain better behavioral records while incarcerated, significantly reducing the risks they pose to the institution where they are housed.
However, Securus Technologies, the leading provider of inmate communication services in the United States today, is quick to rebut the idea that the rates paid by the average inmate in the United States are far too high. Securus points out that the average inmate across state prisons where it operates pays just $0.15 per minute to make outgoing phone call. While this may appear to be a high rate, it is only slightly above what the average person could expect to pay for long distance phone calls on the free market.
Considering all the added security measures, monitoring systems and other expensive means to ensure the safety of the prison that is involvded in a prison communication system, these prices are actually quite good. On top of this, Securus is able to provide the prisons where it operates with significant additional revenues, ensuring that the prison is adequately staffed and run it safely.