Features, Finance, Law and Politics, Municipal Government, New York

Free Phone Calls for People in Custody

May 8, 2019

By Stephanie West

NEW YORK, NY — NYC is now providing free phone calls for people in custody. The implementation of Intro. 741-A makes New York City the first major city to grant free phone calls.

“For too long have people in custody faced barriers to basic aspects of everyday life that can help create more humane jails,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “With free phone calls, we’re eliminating one of those barriers and ensuring that people in custody have the opportunity to remain connected to their lawyers, families and support networks that are so crucial to re-entry into one’s community.”

Prior to the passage of Intro. 741-A, people in custody were charged 50 cents for the first minute and five cents for additional minutes for telephone calls. Now, the Department of Correction will cover the costs made to friends and loved ones, allowing people to stay connected without having to utilize funding in their commissary account. More than 25,000 calls are made daily from City jails.

“It’s a fact that incarcerated individuals have a greater chance of rehabilitation when they are in touch with their community. But for too long, our jails charged people for making simple phone calls, which created serious problems for those in our system with limited means. I am proud the City Council passed my legislation last year to require free phone calls in our city’s jails,” said City Council Speaker Corey Johnson.

People in custody in other restrictive housing follow the same rules as those in general population. The guidelines apply equally to pre-trial and sentenced individuals. The DOC is installing additional phone lines in housing areas across its facilities to sufficiently deal with the anticipated increase of calls.

Council Member Keith Powers, Chair of the Committee on Criminal Justice, said, “Last year, I was proud to join my colleagues to pass a landmark bill that makes all phone calls free for incarcerated individuals. Last month, my bill to eliminate fees associated with paying bail passed the Council. With reforms like these, we ensure incarceration does not hinge on poverty and is not driven by profit, ”

May 8, 2019

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