Letter to the Editor – December 29
The Somerville Times
December 29, 2021
To the Editor:
Every day, incarcerated people and their loved ones shoulder exorbitant costs to call each other because for-profit companies charge about four times the actual cost of phone service. As a result, one in three families with a loved one in prison will go into debt to maintain regular contact with incarcerated relatives. The financial burden of these calls is particularly onerous for low-income people.
With in-person visits suspended at many prisons due to COVID-19, telephone and video calls have become a lifeline for incarcerated people. For incarcerated people, financial barriers to communicating with loved ones are punitive – not rehabilitative – as many studies show that sustained outside contact promotes successful reentry and helps prevent recidivism. We must move away from a carceral system that disproportionately punishes marginalized communities. Right now, we are at a critical juncture for meaningful reform.
Currently, legislators and a coalition of advocacy organizations are fighting to make phone calls free for incarcerated people in Massachusetts. Senator Cynthia Creem and Representative Chynah Tyler have introduced bills S. 1559 and H. 1900, which would provide telephone calls at no cost to incarcerated people in all state prisons, county jails, and houses of correction. Already, cities and states, including Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, and Connecticut, have passed similar laws, and now it is time for us to do the same in Massachusetts.
You can help Massachusetts families stay connected by contacting your local representative and voicing your support. Please contact our Somerville representative, Christine P. Barber, at (617) 722-2220 or Christine.Barber@mahouse.gov. Contacting her is a simple gift that could help so many incarcerated people and their loved ones.