Families Before Profits: Research & Action

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). 

Free telephone and video calls

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 drives 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.

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 makes 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 contract with Securus can be renegotiated.
  • Community partners can play roles as peer mentors and supporters for incarcerated persons and their families.
  • You can contact your elected Metro Council member. Let them know you support families over profit and safe and healthy communications between incarcerated people and their loved ones.

Louisville Family Justice Advocates


Family Connections = Keys to Reentry

Free Phone Calls & Visiting:

National data shows that women make up almost 90% of family members paying for phone fees and visiting.

More than a third of the families are in debt because of
those costs.

The above community mural, named “The Passage,” in the Exit Lobby of the Louisville Metro Jail portrays a bridge to the outside, images of loved ones, connections with nature, winds of change, prayers and peace.

In Louisville, charges for phone fees are racially inequitable because of disparities in who is arrested, released pre-trial, or can afford cash bail. This means Black families are disproportionately burdened and indebted by the costs of phone calls On May 28th, for example, the Jail reports 711 Black people being held, 52% of the total 1373.

As a minimum health standard, all incarcerated people and their loved ones
deserve at least one free phone call per day in a clean, safe, and private space

The final Budget is now under consideration by the Metro Council. For the most current information on phone fees, contact your District Council member today.

We call on @louisvillekygov to remove the $700,700 in revenues collected from
telephone fees in the Mayor’s proposed Budget for Louisville Metro Department of
Corrections for 2021-22.

We call on Louisville Metro Department of Corrections @KYCorrections to establish minimum
health standards and open in-person visiting so that incarcerated individuals and
their loved ones can build social connectedness.

National studies show that visiting with incarcerated parents provides emotional
support for children and reduces the risk of recidivism after parents are released.
Minimum health standards include in-person visiting available to all families two
or more times each week, in a clean, safe well-lit space that accommodates children’s
schedules and prioritizes the physical, emotional and safety of children.

We call on Louisville Metro Department of Corrections to accept and implement
these essential changes immediately to improve the health & wellbeing of all people
in our community.

Louisville Family Justice Work Team,

Annette Bridges, Leslie Clements, Judi Jennings, Shelton McElroy, LaTonya McNeal, Tony Newberry, Julia Richerson, Savvy Shabazz, All Of Us Or None

On May 28, Black people numbered 711 52% of the 1373 people being held in the
Louisville Metro jail.

Minnesota Department of Corrections. (2011).

Saneta, d-V., Schweidler, C., Walters, A., & Zohrabi, A. (2017).

Who pays? The true
cost of incarceration on families
. Oakland, CA: Ella Baker Center, Forward Together

“We Are Not Collateral Consequences”

Children of incarcerated parents are some of the most resilient children, profoundly impacted by a justice system that hardly acknowledges us.

It is time to share our voices and experiences of the consequences of our unjust system, so that we can lead the way to meaningful reform. Isabel Coronado, Next100 Policy Leader

Because “children are often thought of as collateral consequences to our parents’ incarceration,” Coronado and her Next100 cohort created this chart with children at the center.

Here in Kentucky, according to the most recent report,  88% of child maltreatment cases are identified as neglect or deprivation of necessities. https://www.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/documents/cb/cm2019.pdf

Louisville forensic pediatrician Dr. Melissa Currie points to “substance use, domestic violence and one of the highest parental incarceration rates in the country” as contributing factors. Kentucky is 3rd in the nation with its 12% rate of parental incarceration.

Similar rates in other states have led some national child welfare leaders to question whether neglect is being confused with poverty. These leaders maintain that a strength-based public-health response to poverty is more universal and would offer broad eligibility for health-oriented services. https://imprintnews.org/child-welfare-2/america-must-change-its-view-of-poverty-and-neglect/51659

Removal of children from their families due to neglect is especially concerning in Kentucky because of racial inequities in youth and adult incarceration.

As youth advocate Danielle Hempel points out, where “Black children are much more likely to be removed from their homes than their White peers.

The disproportionate representation of children of color in the foster care system is driven by a number of factors, including socioeconomic status and family structure, as well as bias and structural inequities. Poverty in and of itself does not account for the racial disparities in foster care.”

Putting children with incarcerated parents in the center of systemic change to end child abuse in Kentucky calls for racial and economic equity in all policies.