BATON ROUGE, La. — Good news for inmates in Louisiana’s 12 state correctional facilities, it will now cost less for an inmate to make a phone call starting in the next couple of years.
The Public Service Commission (PSC) approved the proposal last week after they received complaints that current rates are too expensive for families of the nearly 38,000 inmates incarcerated in the state.
Under the new policy, rates will be cut by 25 percent when a prisoner is calling family, legal counsel, clergy or certain government agencies including schools. Surcharges on phone calls will also be removed. The new plan will include an initial phone charge of $1.69, plus a 5-cent charge for each additional minute.
Inmates only serving short sentences will not benefit from the new change — since it will take at least two years to go into effect, or when existing phone contracts expire, according to Colby Cook, a PSC spokesperson in a statement.
Prison officials still have some say in the matter and if they have an issue with the lower rates they have the right to take up their requests with the regulatory agency.
Phones in correctional facilities have long been an issue, as these phone calls made by inmates are many times used to arrange illegal activities from behind bars.
Many believe that lowering the rates is more about the families of the inmates — as it currently costs an average of 30 cents per minute for collect calls, plus additional fees. Outside correctional facilities, a collect call is only an average of 2 cents per minute, according to a statement made by Foster Campbell, PSC chairman.
“Those rates are 15 times higher than the average citizen pays on a daily basis. It’s just grossly unfair that we should penalize the families of the people who are incarcerated in our state,” said Don Cravins, mayor of Opelousas, in a statement.