Do inmates have a right to cheap phone calls?

The widespread availability of phone services for prison inmates across the country has some groups asking if inmates have a right to a reasonable phone rate. With typically few opportunities to produce any income while incarcerated, inmates often turn to their families to top up their commissary and calling card accounts in order to stay in touch with them. Critics of the current system point to this as being a highly regressive tax on the families of inmates. These innocent family members end up footing the sometimes exorbitant bill just so that they can maintain some semblance of a normal relationship with their incarcerated loved ones.

 

It’s easy to empathize with the families’ plight. If a family with children, living below the poverty line, ends up paying hundreds of dollars per month for the ability to keep the children’s father in their lives, then they are often faced with the decision between paying the cable or utility bill and maintaining contact with their loved one. Regardless of any abstract moral arguments, this is the cold reality that many families face.

 

 

The courts respond

 

Unfortunately for these families, the courts have ruled again and again that inmates have no right to place phone calls from prison. In fact, inmates have no right to even see their families, in any capacity. This reflects the hard realities of prison life. If you’ve earned your stay at a state prison, you’ve done something monumentally contrary to the interests of society.