Mass. sheriffs cut cost of prison calls


June 21, 2021
CommonWealth Magazine
By Colin A. Young

Promise 10 minutes free, 14 cents a minute after that.

EVERY SHERIFF’S department in Massachusetts has agreed to provide people incarcerated at county jails and houses of correction with at least 10 minutes of free phone calls each week and to reduce the cost of subsequent calls, the Massachusetts Sheriffs’ Association announced.

Currently, each county sheriff’s department can set its own cost for inmate telephone calls. The money raised is put towards educational programs, vocational skills training and other services designed to prepare inmates for re-entry into society. While the state Department of Correction charges 10 or 11 cents per minute for phone calls, some sheriffs have charged more than 40 cents per minute for calls, according to Prisoners’ Legal Services of Massachusetts.

In addition to making the first 10 minutes of phone calls each week free for inmates, the state’s 14 sheriffs also agreed to charge no more than 14 cents a minute after the initial 10 minutes expires.“My fellow Sheriffs and I know that contact with friends and loved ones is an essential component for preparing justice-involved individuals for successful reentry into society,” said Suffolk County Sheriff Steven Tompkins, who serves as president of the Massachusetts Sheriffs’ Association. “This unanimous decision by the fourteen Sheriffs is reflective of our commitment to those in our care and custody. As the nature of corrections continues to evolve in the Commonwealth, we are proud to re-affirm our commitment to maintaining and strengthening familial bonds.”

The Massachusetts Sheriffs’ Association said the new policy will go into effect no later than August 1.

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