Free Telephone and Video Calls
Research demonstrates that regular contact is crucial to an incarcerated person’s mental health during confinement, as well as their ability to successfully reintegrate upon release. Providing free telephone calls is not a solution to over-incarceration, but is a key to maintaining contact with families and friends. (Learn more: The Hill: Importance of ongoing contact for prisoners).
Current costs of telephone calls and projected costs for video calls set by Securus Technologies, a multi-billion dollar for-profit corporation, are unfair and prohibitive for families. Locally and nationally, the high costs of prison and jail phone calls drive families and friends into debt. (Learn more: When Phone Calls Send Families Into Debt).
Monthly call volume records obtained by the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting show Securus collected $1.6 million in revenue from phone calls in the Louisville jail during 2020. (Learn more: Phone Calls Still Won’t Be Free When Louisville Jail Gives Up Profit)
No Digitizing Mail for Surveillance
A new money-making mode now being proposed by Securus is the digitization of mail to confined people. Letters and photos sent to prisoners would be converted to email for surveillance purposes. Written correspondence is more important now than ever with the cessation of all visiting, and the only alternative for families and friends who cannot afford the cost of phone calls. Moreover, a large percentage of people in the Louisville Jail are awaiting trial and have not been convicted of any charge, so should not be subject to surveillance. (Learn more: Slate: Prisons Are Increasingly Banning Physical Mail).
In-Person Visiting As Soon As Safely Possible
From 2008 through March 2020, LFJA’s Special Project Team created art with families in the video lobby in the main jail complex each week. During that time, with no in-person visiting opportunities available, families often waited 2-3 hours for a 20-minute video monitor session. The Special Project Team witnessed 50-100 (and sometimes more) caregivers and children enduring long waits in the basement of the Hall of Justice to see their loved ones during the weekly two-hour artmaking activities.
Families and friends want and deserve in-person contact with their incarcerated loved ones. Research shows that strong family and social connections are important keys to successful re-entry for the person who is incarcerated, and make a difference for the well-being of their loved ones, especially children.
Be The Change You Want to See!
Metro Council took a big step forward in June by approving the 2021-22 Metro Budget with the requirement that the LMDC discontinue generating revenue from phone calls after December 31st. Now, LMDC and Metro Council can go beyond banning revenue from phone calls and begin creating system changes in communications that recognize the health and well-being of people and families impacted by incarceration.
Now is the time to break the silence, change the narrative, and engage your neighbors, friends, faith and justice communities, and elected officials in re-thinking incarceration in our city. The conditions in our jail can be changed because it is under local jurisdictions. Here’s how:
- LMDC’s current phone contract expires in January 2022. The terms of any new communications contracts should include a public comment period before the contract is approved.
- Contact your elected Metro Council member: Email a Council Member | LouisvilleKY.gov. Let them know you support families over profit and safe and healthy communications between incarcerated people and their loved ones.
- Community-based nonprofits and service organizations can support families with incarcerated loved ones by providing physical and mental health care, basic needs, educational supplies, peer mentoring and job opportunities.