Costly connections: Bill would eliminate $11 million in prison phone revenue


July 28, 2020
CommonWealth Magazine
By Sarah Betancourt

AFTER 10 YEARS behind bars, Jurrell Laronal looks back and remembers calls to his partner and stepchildren as one of the few things that kept him sane while bouncing between maximum and medium security prisons in Massachusetts.

“It’s everything,” he said toweling off after a workout at his workplace, Quincy’s Crossfit Trifecta MMA. “When you’re locked up, you can’t release what’s bottled up. And if you can’t make the call and have that connection, you’re lost.”

The biggest barrier to making a prison phone call is the cost, with the price of a five-minute call, including various fees and per-minute charges, ranging from a low of 50 cents at state Department of Correction facilities to as much as $6 at the Franklin and Berkshire County jails.The two private phone companies that provide the service pay the jails hefty commissions and make annual minimum payments, which totaled $11 million in 2019, according to documents obtained through a year of public records requests. The 2,000 pages of documents, including checks, budgets, and contracts with the three leading prison phone providers – Securus,Global Tel Link, and IC Solutions,– indicate $7.4 million was paid out in commissions in 2019 on inmate phone calls and another $3.6 million was provided in minimum payments.

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