It is expensive for the incarcerated to connect by phone with free people and vice versa. California Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed into law a bill, SB 1008, that makes phone calls from California’s prisons free. Under the new law, the state’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation will pay for the calls made by incarcerated people and the people receiving calls from them.
Here are three things to know.
SB 1008, the “Keep Families Connected Act,” eliminates the per-minute phone charges and connection fees.
California is the second state after Connecticut and the biggest state by far to institute such a law, Business Insider reported. This will definitely take a bite out of the $1.4 billion prison telecom industry.
The exorbitant phone feels disproportionately affect Black families and women who try to maintain phone connections with someone incarcerated.
In 2017, the year of most recent data, 28.5 percent of California’s male prisoners were African American—compared to just 5.6 percent of the state’s adult male residents, according to the Public Policy Institute of California.
According to a 2015 report by the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, 34 percent of families go into debt in their attempt to maintain contact with loved ones inside through phone calls and visitations. The impact is disproportionately felt by women of color because of the corresponding disproportionate number of men of color in U.S. prisons, Protocol reported.
In some cases, phone calls can be around .13 cents per minute and have a connection fee.
The new law covers the 93,000 incarcerated people in the state’s prison system, and there is hope that future legislation will extend free calls into California’s city and county jails, as well, Protocol reported.
Gov. Wayne Newsom (screengrab from YouTube) / Promotion for kiosks from GTL, a video-visitation provider (press release)