Published on: Monday, June 7, 2021

A bill that would make Connecticut the first state in the nation to provide free prison phone calls is now headed to the governor's desk (available here). The bill would also prevent in-person prison visits from being replaced by video calls.

Phone calls are a crucial way for incarcerated people to reach legal help or their families, but costs can be prohibitive—even for pretrial inmates who haven’t been convicted of any crimes. According to the Prison Policy Initiative, a 15-minute in-state phone call in Connecticut cost $3.65 in 2019, which is more expensive than any state besides Arkansas. Connecticut makes a 68% commission on in-state prison calls through its contract with phone vendor Securus Technologies, one of the nation's largest prison phone vendors. In 2019, the state took in about $7 million.

Connecticut may be the first state to eliminate the fees, but similar policies have passed in New York City, San Francisco and San Diego. If the governor signs the bill, prison calls are projected to be free in Connecticut by October 1, 2022.