CBS Boston

Prison phone calls now free for Massachusetts inmates (CBS News Boston)

Below is a December 1, 2023 article from CBS News Boston about the new law that makes phone calls free for people who are incarcerated in Massachusetts. Prisoners’ Legal Services of Massachusetts Senior Attorney Bonnie Tenneriello is quoted. Prisoners’ Legal Services has been engaged in advocacy on this issue for many years.

BOSTON – Massachusetts has joined a handful of other states in making jail and prison phone calls free for inmates.

In November, Gov. Maura Healey signed into law “an act providing for unlimited free phone calls to incarcerated individuals.” The new policy was officially implemented Friday.

According to the Prison Policy Initiative, the Department of Correction was previously charging 12 cents per minute for calls, while county jails were charging 14 cents a minute. Whoever was receiving the phone call would get charged.

“No cost calls will alleviate the financial burden and remove barriers for an individual in MA DOC custody to stay connected with their outside support system,” DOC Commissioner Carol Mici said in a statement. “Strong family support helps to advance the rehabilitative process, reduces recidivism, and contributes to successful reentry upon release.”

Back in 2021, sheriffs in Massachusetts agreed to give inmates 10 minutes of free phone calls a week, but advocates have long pushed to make the calls free. They say families of those in prison have had to choose between adding money to their loved ones’ prison phone accounts or paying rent and buying groceries.

“After many years of struggle led by directly affected people, we are delighted to see this pass,” Prisoners’ Legal Services of Massachusetts Senior Attorney Bonnie Tenneriello said in a statement.

Connecticut, Minnesota, Colorado and California have also made prison phone calls free of charge.