Every time that a family member calls a Connecticut inmate, Connecticut collects a 68% commission on that call. That commission delivered $7.7 million in revenue to the State, according to a Stamford Advocate February 14, 2020 article.
That’s money paid by a family member. It’s a penalty extracted from mothers, fathers, wives and husbands so that they and their children can speak to someone who is already being punished. It costs $5.00 for a 15-minute call.
Those 15 minutes are barely more than a moment for a child speaking to a father. And many families, barely supported by minimum wage, can’t afford those $5.00.
On the extremely rare occasion when most people fleetingly think of someone in jail, there is certainly no thought of the many other costs and punishments that are piled, one-after-another, upon families.
There is the cost of gasoline to drive to the prison where fathers and mothers are held. There is the lost time from jobs to make that drive. Then, there are the costs of depositing even meager amounts of money into an inmate’s commissary and, of course, the cost of phone calls.
But the most severely damaging cost of incarceration to family and children is separation. When families cannot maintain consistent, frequent contact with a loved one who is incarcerated, the emotional toll, especially upon children, is incalculable. And when that contact is limited because of financial constraints, especially a cost that amounts to not much more than a kickback to State government, one of the primary goals of sentencing, rehabilitation, is discarded.
The prison industry and the for-profit commercial models that characterize the business of incarceration damage families and children. If we are going to meaningfully reduce the cycle of incarceration that has plagued our State and our country for generations, we must stop the practice of making any part of imprisonment, lucrative.