Why Does it Cost so Much to Talk to Your Dad in Jail?

Making a phone call from jail can cost as much as a family’s dinner!


Going to prison means a lot more than just being behind bars and cut off from the world for years. It means you can’t spend time with your family. You can’t keep a job and gain work experience. You lose out on all the pleasures of being a free citizen. However, did you ever stop to think about the price that’s paid by the family and loved ones of those who are imprisoned? Many people don’t. Yet the price is high, and we don’t just mean in emotional costs. There are actual monetary costs as well…


Phone calls made from the jail are a serious expense!


For the average free citizen, we pay for phone calls on a monthly basis in the form of cell phone bills. There’s no actual per minute charge (unless you happen to choose a pay-by-the-minute cell phone.) But when you’re calling loved ones from jail, most inmates can’t pay for the call themselves. The charges might be billed to the person receiving the calls. And when a 15 minute jailhouse phone call costs more than a whole family’s dinner, the cost of communication is simply too high for some people! Obviously prison inmates have no funds and rely on other to either accept collect phone calls or to put money “on their books”, which is prison lingo for putting money into their commissary account.


So why is it like that? Why does it cost a small fortune for an inmate to call and talk to their loved ones at home? Because all jails and detention centers in the U.S. are contracted with third-party phone providers. And those providers have a monopoly on jail phone contracts, which makes them an enormous amount of money. And they’d like to keep it that way.


Third party phone service providers make a killing on phone calls made from jail and prison


These type of ‘in site commission contracts’ are different from the usual “highest-bidder-wins” because the companies share their revenue with facility operators. This results in a reverse-bidding system, where the company that secures a contract shares their earnings with the host (in this case, the county jails or the Michigan Department of Corrections prisons.) Obviously, it’s in the jail’s best interest to accept the contract that offers them the most in upfront payments, kickbacks and monthly revenue. So the company offering the highest percentage of its revenue, along with other bonuses and benefits, is the one most likely to get the contract.


For many people, they don’t believe this is an issue. After all, “if you do the crime, you do the time.” And part of doing the time in Michigan lockups means paying an arm and a leg for the chance to call home and talk to loved ones. But it’s rarely the inmates that cover the cost of the call. It’s the loved ones and family who end up forking over a fortune in order to be able to talk to someone behind bars. It’s the children who miss out on a chance to talk to their moms and dads in jail. And parents who can’t talk to their incarcerated adult children.


Here in mid-Michigan, the cost is different in each county.


At Ingham County Jail in Lansing, a 15 minute call to a loved one in another county costs about $13. In Clinton County next door, the cost is even higher because the first minute is more than $5, and all subsequent minutes cost $1 a piece. And that’s not including the transaction fee, which can be anywhere from $3 to $5 per call, and the state, federal and local taxes that are added to each call. All in all, many struggling families are forced to choose between paying all of their monthly bills, and that short weekly call from an incarcerated family member.


It also puts many inmates in a difficult position. If they need money, they have to call loved ones to ask for it, and that costs more money. If they have to reach their attorney, they need to call. But most attorneys don’t accept the collect calls from the jail because the rates are so expensive. If they have problems, or run into issues with their case, they can’t reach out and ask for help, because the people they’re calling can’t afford to talk to them. Some feel that it’s heartbreaking, and it’s a very real concern for prisoners and inmates all over Michigan. Others argue that the taxpayers ought to recoup some of the money they have to spend to lock offenders up.


Unfortunately, the costs are usually paid by the families, not the inmates themselves


The system is not set up to make incarceration fair, or even tolerable, for those who are serving their time. Then again, nor are the crime victims treated fairly by the offenders. But as we tell our readers on a regular basis, the best way to avoid becoming caught up in this system, is to avoid being convicted of a crime. And the best way to do that, is to ensure that you have the best possible defense attorney on your side, right from the start!


At The Kronzek Firm, we pride ourselves on being some of the most respected and sought-after criminal defense attorneys in Michigan. Our law firm provides help with every aspect of your criminal case. Skilled and experienced attorneys work hard to provide you with the best criminal defense, and ensure that your rights are protected, both in and out of court. If you’ve been accused of a crime in MIchigan, call us immediately at 866 766 5245. We are here to help you!


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