Man in jail cell

FCC & Inmate Phone Calls

Having a family member go to jail is disruptive, heartbreaking, poverty inducing and highly stressful.

Keeping a relationship healthy and strong while someone is inside is difficult even if you can talk all the time. Not being able to spend private time together or be able to hug or hold hands takes a heavy toll. Many parent and child relationships are ruined through the prison system, as well as marriages and partnerships.

A lucky few are able to continue regular and free contact with their family member while they are in jail. This happens if they are in jail locally or if you can manage to get a phone with an area code the jail phones can call for free. Again, this is rare, so most families are accepting collect calls or purchasing time on calling cards. Even if you are able to contact them through land lines or the right area code, you will have to figure out a way to set up phone service and keep it on, as well as purchasing a phone. Sometimes you can only use landlines, so you have to be able to pick up since you can’t call the prisoner back. If you can use a cell phone, you have to use one with the right area code, so you may have to use money you don’t have to buy a new phone line. Not being able to call the prisoner back makes it difficult to live a spontaneous life, and can lead to depression.

Often, there are restrictions to a certain type of call or card, and the families have no choice. They can’t shop around for better prices, and, truthfully, there likely wouldn’t be any better prices to find because the market knows the family is desperate so the prices are high across the board.

In recent years, the FCC has made efforts to cap the rates that families can be charge for calls from prisons. The Trump administration has rolled back the caps which will result in the families being harmed and the calling companies profiting majorly.

Probation is often an option once you are sentenced, but sentencing can take a very long time. The more serious the charge, the longer you will likely have to wait. If you can bail out while waiting on your sentencing, you are much more likely to retain employment, maintain relationships with children, partners and family, and to stay mentally and physically healthy. Recidivism increases when people become “institutionalized”. You don’t want this to happen to you or your family. Paying for bail can be overwhelming because it’s everything at once, but it is infinitely more affordable than losing your family, your job, your health and your life.

Charges, such as phone calls, add up quickly. You are stuck in jail and need commissary, postage, paper, and, meanwhile, your family is paying all the bills by themselves and paying for what you need without benefiting from any effort on your part. The kicker is, you couldn’t even help if you wanted to! So, being able to get out, if you can, is the best option while waiting for sentencing.

This is another social issue because lenders may prey on families that need a lump sum. Thankfully, bail bondsmen will often accept a percentage of the bail with the promise that you will appear for your court dates (usually about ten percent). This eases the burden on families and helps you to continue living your life instead of watching it all fall apart as you sit in a jail cell day after day, and running up charges on the phone just trying to remain a part of your family.

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