Peter Wagner and
(This report was released before the Martha Wright-Reed Act was passed by Congress. Learn more about the implications of this law in this blog post.)
At a time when the cost of a typical phone call is approaching zero, a few companies are charging millions of consumers — the families of people in prison — outlandish prices to stay in touch with their incarcerated loved ones. The cost of everyday communication is arguably the worst price-gouging that people behind bars and their loved ones face. We gathered data showing that while some jails have negotiated rates as low as 1 or 2 cents per minute1 — proving the possibility of much lower phone rates — the vast majority of jails charge 10 times that amount or more.
Why are the (mostly low-income) people who want to maintain a relationship with incarcerated loved ones forced to use services that charge shockingly high prices for basic communications technology? Because jails and prisons often choose their telecom providers on the basis of which company will pay the facility the most money in kickbacks. Combine the companies’ profit-seeking with the correctional facilities’ revenue-seeking, and the poorest families in the country end up paying higher rates to stay connected than anyone else.
Rates for telephone calls from prisons and jails have come down in recent years, thanks to regulatory action by the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”), efforts by some forward-thinking state legislators and regulatory bodies, and strong advocacy campaigns. But costs are still generally too high (especially in jails),2 some of the smaller telecom providers are charging way too much for in-state calls to landlines,3 and the larger companies are rapidly evolving their businesses to undermine all of this progress.
In this report:
There has been significant progress on reducing prison and jail calling charges since advocates began mobilizing around this issue more than two decades ago, and even since our last major report in this series in 2019. This section presents an up-to-date and expanded view of the costs prison and jail families must pay, and will address both parts of the charges: per-minute rates (a set amount charged for each minute that a call lasts) and ancillary fees (additional charges to have, open, fund and close accounts).
We built a nationwide database of phone rates in 50 state prison systems, as well as thousands of local jails and other detention facilities of various types.4 Our data, from December 2021, show that per-minute rates have been steadily falling over the last ten years, a result of action at both the FCC and at the state and local levels.
Prison and jail phone companies charge two separate (and often different) rates depending on whether a call is between people in the same state or people in different states.5 When the FCC capped the cost of out-of-state calls from prisons and jails in 2014, rates instantly fell below the less-aggressively-regulated in-state calls.6 Within a few years — largely because of pressure from family members — state prisons lowered their in-state rates as well. In locally-run jails, where family organizing is more difficult and the administrators often less aggressive negotiators, the too-high costs of in-state calls were much slower to catch up, but have made tremendous progress in the last few years.
There are two other markers of progress that stakeholders with experience in this field should note:
For a long time, ancillary fees — fees to open, have, fund, and close prepaid phone accounts — added up to almost 40% of what incarcerated people and their families spent on phone calls.10 The progress on reducing these fees has been uneven compared to progress on reducing phone rates.
The FCC recognized in its 2015 order that ancillary fees “are the chief source of consumer abuse and allow circumvention of rate caps”11 and banned most fees except for five specific types12, for which it set maximums that could not be exceeded. Then until late 2021, the FCC largely focused on the rates and did not devote much attention to the loopholes the companies were exploiting.
Besides the fact that these interim caps were set in 2015 and should be further reduced, there are four other classes of abusive fees that the FCC has recently addressed or is starting to address:
The struggle for prison phone justice has shown that state governments are well positioned to bring down communications costs for incarcerated people and their families. States, unlike the FCC, are not hemmed in by constraints around their jurisdiction (see footnote 6); they also have the authority to set the rules and priorities for state and local correctional facilities, as well as for state regulators.
Some steps that state legislatures have already taken to lower costs for families include:
As the table below shows, states have experimented with several different types of reforms that advance phone justice:
|California||SB 1008, passed in 2022, provides state-sponsored calls in prisons.||Interim rate caps (7¢ + most fees banned, effective in prisons and jails) imposed by Public Utilities Commission and rulemaking currently underway to determine permanent caps. Additionally, agency-sponsored calling in Division of Juvenile Justice facilities. (Note that since SB 1008 made prison phone calls agency-sponsored, the rate cap part of this regulation no longer applies to prisons, but it still applies to jails.)|
|Connecticut||Conn. Gen. Stat. § 18-8100 provides state-sponsored calls (prisons only; there are no county jails in Connecticut).|
|Illinois||Rate caps (7¢/min, prison only). (730 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/3-4-1(a-5)|
|Iowa||Public Utilities Commission approves rates and fees on a company-by-company basis.|
|Nevada||SB 21-387 restored Public Utilities Commission’s jurisdiction over prison and jail calling.||Public Utilities Commission rulemaking currently underway (applies to both prisons and jails).|
|New Jersey||Site commission ban, broadly defined (NJSA 30:4-8.12(b)); 11¢ statutory rate cap (prisons and jails).|
|New Mexico||Revenue-based site commissions prohibited in prisons and jails (N.M. Stat. § 33-14-1).||Rate caps (15¢/min for in-state calls, prisons and jails). Rulemaking currently underway to consider revisions.|
|New York||State facilities required to negotiate phone call rates based on the lowest cost to the consumer, and barred from receiving any portion of the revenue. N.Y. Corr. Law § 623.|
|Oregon||Rate caps (17-21¢ for prepaid calls, jails only). ORS § 169.683. Site commissions for jails capped at 5¢ per minute. ORS 169.681. State prison site commission capped at actual costs (ORS 421.076)|
|South Carolina||State prison system required to forego commissions or revenue from telephones. S.C.C. § 10-1-210|
One development in the prison telecom industry threatens to undo much of the progress described above: The exploitation families experience at the hands of prison telecom companies is no longer only related to phone calls.
As consumer protections around phone calls have become stronger, the companies have expanded the number of costly “services” they offer to incarcerated people. ViaPath (GTL) and Securus — the two giants dominating the prison phone industry — have both expanded their offerings in recent years by buying up competitors20 that sell products like video calling, tablets, electronic messaging, release cards, and money transfer platforms that family members use to send their loved ones money for all of these products.
While these kinds of products can be a boon to families trying to stay connected, families frequently report issues such as dropped video calls and nonexistent tech support. Even when they work properly, services like video calling vary widely in price from place to place and are sold in inconvenient, inflexible time chunks — as our survey of video calling rates (below) illustrates — showing that companies are charging consumers arbitrarily high costs for services that most families use cheaply or for free.21
These non-phone products are, for the most part, less regulated than phone calls — and the companies have argued that they are outside the purview of state and federal regulators — meaning higher profits for the companies.22 Most federal and state policies seeking to lower phone call costs do not address video and other services. But there is no reason for regulators to turn a blind eye. For instance, we laid out a comprehensive legal roadmap for the FCC, explaining why the agency has the authority under current law to regulate correctional video calling. Alternatively, the Martha Wright-Reed Act, currently pending in Congress, would clarify the FCC’s jurisdiction over video calls. And if Congress fails to act, then any individual state legislature could either impose a statutory rate cap on services like video calling or explicitly grant jurisdiction over such services to the state’s utility agency. No matter who takes on these reforms, however, oversight over these companies, their contracts, and their products will be critical to ending the exploitation of incarcerated people and their families.
|MA||Barnstable County||Securus||$6.95 for 20 minutes|
|MA||Essex County||Securus||$5 for 20 minutes|
|MA||Franklin County||Securus||$5 for 20 minutes|
|MA||Massachusetts DOC||Securus||$5 for 20 minutes|
|MA||Middlesex County||Securus||$5.95 for 20 minutes|
|MA||Worcester County||Securus||$5 for 20 minutes|
|MA||Norfolk County Corr. Ctr||Securus||$7.95 for 20 minutes|
|MA||Suffolk County||Securus||$5.95 for 20 minutes|
|MT||Broadwater County||T.W. Vending||39¢ / min|
|MT||Custer County||Securus||$12.99 for 20 minutes|
|MT||Dawson County||CenturyLink||$4 for 25 minutes|
|MT||Flathead County||Securus||$12.99 for 20 minutes|
|MT||Gallatin County||ViaPath (GTL)||25¢ / min|
|MT||Jefferson County||T.W. Vending||39¢ / min|
|MT||Lewis & Clark County||T.W. Vending||39¢ / min|
|MT||Montana DOC||ICSolutions||$4 for 25 minutes|
|MT||Park County||T.W. Vending||39¢ / min|
|MT||Ravalli County||T.W. Vending||39¢ / min|
|MT||Yellowstone County||Telmate||25¢ / min|
|NJ||Camden County||ViaPath (GTL)/Renovo||$8 for 20 minutes|
|NJ||Cape May County||Securus||$10 for 20 minutes|
|NJ||Cumberland County||ViaPath (GTL)/Renovo||$6.25 for 25 minutes|
|NJ||Hudson County||ViaPath (GTL)||$4 for 10 minutes|
|NJ||New Jersey DOC||JPay/Securus||$9.95 for 30 minutes|
|NJ||Ocean County||ViaPath (GTL)||$4 for 16 minutes|
|NJ||Passaic County||ViaPath (GTL)/Renovo||$12 for 30 minutes|
|NJ||Salem County||iWebVisit||$8 for 20 minutes|
|CA||Amador County||Securus||$5.95 for 20 minutes|
|CA||Calaveras County||Securus||$9.99 for 30 minutes|
|CA||Contra Costa County||ViaPath (GTL)||25¢ / min|
|CA||El Dorado County||NCIC||20¢ / min|
|CA||Fresno County||ViaPath (GTL)||35¢ / min|
|CA||Glenn County||ViaPath (GTL)||$15 for 20 minutes (or 25¢/min if using a tablet)|
|CA||Imperial County||ViaPath (GTL)||25¢ / min|
|CA||Inyo County||ICSolutions||25¢ / min|
|CA||Kings County||Securus||$9 for 30 minutes|
|CA||Lake County||ICSolutions||25¢ / min|
|CA||Lassen County||ViaPath (GTL)||25¢ / min|
|CA||Marin County||ViaPath (GTL)||42¢ / min|
|CA||Mariposa County||NCIC||30¢ / min|
|CA||Monterey County||ViaPath (GTL)||25¢ / min|
|CA||Napa County||Securus||$7.95 for 30 minutes|
|CA||Nevada County||ViaPath (GTL)||25¢ / min|
|CA||Orange County||ViaPath (GTL)||$9 for 30 minutes|
|CA||Placer County||ICSolutions||33¢ / min|
|CA||Plumas County||NCIC||30¢ / min|
|CA||San Benito County||ViaPath (GTL)||$10 for 25 minutes|
|CA||San Diego County||Securus||no charge|
|CA||San Francisco||ViaPath (GTL)||city-sponsored calling — no charge to end-users|
|CA||San Luis Obispo County||NCIC||19¢ / min|
|CA||Santa Barbara County||ViaPath (GTL)||$6 for 30 minutes|
|CA||Shasta County||ViaPath (GTL)||40¢ / min|
|CA||Sonoma County||ViaPath (GTL)||25¢ / min|
|CA||Tehama County||ICSolutions||21¢ / min|
|CA||Tulare County||ICSolutions||25¢ / min|
|CA||Tuolumne County||Securus||$9 for 30 minutes|
|CA||Ventura County||Securus||$6 for 30 minutes|
|CA||Solano County||iWebVisit||$9 for 30 minutes|
|CA||California Dept of Corr & Rehabilitation||ViaPath (GTL)||20¢ / min (state pays for 15 minutes per person, every 2 weeks)|
|CA||Yolo County||ViaPath (GTL)||35¢ / min|
|CA||Yuba County||ViaPath (GTL)||25¢ / min|
While considerable progress has been made to reduce prison and jail telecom costs, prison telecom companies are still charging the families of people behind bars grossly inflated rates and inappropriate fees to communicate with their loved ones. The companies are also foisting more and more unregulated products onto the market for prison communications, and prisons and jails, eager for kickbacks, are signing contracts for bundles of these services. Families cannot help but use them.
Additionally, it is likely that there are county jails where the FCC’s recent regulation of phone call costs has not been applied. 552 county jails charge higher in-state rates than the FCC allows for out-of-state calls.23 We know that at least some of the smaller companies were unaware of the new rules about how to classify calls as in-state or out-of-state. Therefore, while some of these counties are likely charging the in-state rates as the FCC intended (i.e. only to customers with landlines located in the same state as the facility), some counties may be illegally — if unintentionally — charging a higher in-state rate for calls that the FCC has determined are out-of-state calls. Determining which of the 552 rates fall into which category requires facility-level usage data held by the companies that was not available for this report, but that can be accessed by federal or state regulators and may sometimes be available in regular commission reports sent to the facilities by their provider.24
Families of incarcerated people deserve relief from the burden of phone call costs and an ever-growing list of unregulated technologies. Below, we offer recommendations for the government bodies with the most power to bring reform, including state legislatures, which can implement changes that dramatically reduce costs for prison and jail families as early as the next legislative session.
State governments (local governments can pass some of these reforms on a municipal scale as well):
This report, its visuals and its appendices pull together several different surveys of rates.
Voice-calling rates come from the following sources:
The rates-over-time graphic presents the average jail phone rate for 2016, 2018, and 2021. Figures from 2016 and 2018 come primarily from the rate survey we did for the first State of Phone Justice report. However, two important things to note: First, we recalculated the 2018 average rate for a 15-minute call ($5.74) to include rates charged by Reliance Telephone, which we did not have at the time of our first State of Phone Justice report. Second, the 2016 average rate excludes police lockups (temporary holding facilities inside police precincts), but subsequent years’ data do include police lockups. The 2021 averages for this graphic were calculated using data from telecom carriers’ annual reports and is described in more detail in the methodology for Appendix table 3.
Appendix table 3 represents our best attempt to report the rates for every correctional facility not classified as a “prison” under applicable FCC rules—this includes county jails, regional jails, immigrant detention facilities, secure psychiatric facilities, juvenile facilities, Indian Country jails, military correctional facilities and police lockups. These rates originate from the 2021 annual reports that telecom carriers filed with the FCC on Form 2301(a), with additional corrections and updates based on our research intended to make this table into the most comprehensive and up-to-date compendium available.28 The provider names are as listed in the annual reports, including with the name of their contracting partners, except that we standardized on referencing to GTL by their new name in the format “ViaPath (GTL).”
The FCC’s Form 2301(a) data collection is very useful in that it collects data from all providers, including those that do not publish their rates online. The data collection’s weakness is that it asks for the highest rate charged during the year, and since the FCC instituted new rate caps in October 2021, many rates decreased during 2021. Believing that it was most useful (and most expedient) to present the newest available data, we sought to update this data wherever possible.
Because it was not practical to check every rate, we focused on the rates that where one of three factors indicated that the rate was most likely to be out-of-date or incorrect:
When we identified rates over these caps, we performed additional verification and corrections and adjusted the vendors and rates for hundreds of counties using at least one of these methods:
For the purposes of the market share analysis, made available in Appendix table 9, we merged together company partnerships listed in Appendix Table 3 into the larger of the two partnering companies; and we added in the state prison contracts and populations as collected and published by Worth Rises.
Ideally, we would have been able to present comprehensive video-calling rate data in this report, but this proved more difficult than expected because several prominent carriers (including ViaPath (GTL) and ICSolutions) refuse to publish their rate information. To present a partial view of the cost of video-calling, we collected jail video rates from four states, as follows:
Dallas County, Texas charges 1¢ per minute for phone calls, while Travis County (Austin), Texas and San Mateo County, California charge 2¢ per minute. Several other correctional facilities with populations of varying sizes charge similarly low rates. These counties’ providers profit from each of these phone contracts, suggesting that the cost of delivering phone services to jails is vastly smaller than the average jail phone call rate of 21¢ per minute. ↩
Data we collected for this report (dated to December 2021) showed that in 20 states, the typical phone call home from a jail is at least three times as expensive as the same call from a state prison. (See slideshow above.) ↩
In 34 states, at least one jail charges in-state rates higher than 21¢ per minute (the maximum allowable rate under the FCC’s caps on out-of-state jail calls). As we explain later in this report, these higher in-state calling rates are mostly charged to people with landlines in the same state as the facility where their loved one is incarcerated. See our map of the number of jails per state that we’ve identified as charging more for in-state calls than the FCC allows for out-of-state calls; and Appendix table 3 for the detailed findings. ↩
Our complete database is comprised of the appendices to this report, particularly Appendix table 1 with rates for state prison systems and Appendix table 3 with rates for local jails and other miscellaneous facilities. Our survey of prison phone rates does not include rates for Federal Bureau of Prisons facilities. To our knowledge, the BOP has not posted its 2021 phone rates anywhere publicly. ↩
Phone companies serving non-incarcerated consumers also historically charged different rates for in-state and out-of-state calls. Historically, in the general phone market, rates were higher for calls between states because more distance meant higher costs. As new technology made that distinction less relevant, rates for out-of-state calls came down, and companies competed for customers by offering ever-lower prices. In the broken market for prison and jail telephone calls — where facilities pick their vendor based on who will kick back the most revenue — technological change worked out slower and differently. ↩
The FCC has successfully imposed caps on rates for out-of-state calls from prisons and jails, but not in-state calls. After the agency created regulations in 2015 that lowered the cost of both in-state and out-of-state calls, telecom providers sued the regulator, and a federal court ultimately ruled that the FCC exceeded its legal authority in capping in-state calls. Since then, the FCC has made no attempt to cap in-state phone rates, though it did succeed in changing the definition of in-state and out-of-state. A bill that recently passed in Congress, the Martha Wright-Reed Just and Reasonable Communications Act (Note: After this report was published this measure passed Congress) , would clarify the FCC’s jurisdiction to regulate the cost of phone calls from prisons and jails, both in-state and out-of-state. For now, the government bodies best positioned to regulate in-state calling rates are state governments, as we explain further in this report. ↩
For a list of the average (and highest) jail phone rates charged by each company, see Appendix table 8. ↩
For these calculations, we ignored Encartele because — for reasons and with a legality we don’t understand — that company does not price its calls in dollars per minute. ↩
As we discuss in the recommendations, whether counties are charging their in-state rates just to landlines is a factual question for investigation by advocates, the media, jail officials and federal and state regulators. Once that factual question is resolved, the question of whether such high charges to old-fashioned landlines are morally conscionable should be addressed. ↩
Because these hidden fees typically do not pay commissions, shifting the families’ costs to fees was a way for the providers to pay facilities far less than the facilities expected. For a powerful illustration of why fees are important to consider alongside rates, see the 2016 memorandum and contract between Securus and Genesee County, Michigan where the company and the jail agreed to “move fees into rates” and increase the cost of calls by 23.41c/minute so that the county and the provider could continue to make just as much money as before the FCC capped fees. ↩
See the FCC citing CenturyLink in paragraph 86 of the 2014 Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. ↩
The 2015 order restricted the allowed fees to: automated payment fees for electronic payments, payment fees when payments are made via a live agent, paper bill fees, single call fees, and money transfer fees. ↩
For a summary of each provider’s current policies on inactive accounts, see Appendix Table 10. ↩
Unfortunately, the FCC did not endorse our suggestion for a “more sweeping reform at this time” — which they summarize in footnote 256 to the 2022 Fourth Report and Order — to permanently end the practice of phone companies colluding with the money transfer companies to embed kickbacks within artificially inflated fees charged by those companies. Requiring the companies to declare under penalty of perjury that they are not receiving a revenue share from the money transfer companies and to back that assertion by submitting copies of their money transfer contracts to the FCC would permanently end this practice. However, by lowering the maximum allowed charge to $5.95, the FCC did, at least for the time-being and the current state of pricing at the money transfer companies, eliminate much if not all of the room in the fee to demand a kickback. ↩
For additional footnotes and context for the FCC’s notice, see paragraph 142 at https://docs.fcc.gov/public/attachments/FCC-22-9A1.pdf. ↩
This would be $3 for automated payments and, far less common, $5.95 for a payment via a live agent. ↩
For a particularly effective framing of the reform, look to New Jersey, which chose to define “commissions” broadly as “any form of monetary payment, in-kind payment requirement, gift, exchange of services or goods, fee, or technology allowance.” ↩
As of this report’s writing, California and Connecticut are the only two states to have passed agency-sponsored calling reforms (i.e. free calls). (Massachusetts came close in 2022, but the bill was vetoed by Gov. Charlie Baker). At the local level, New York City and San Francisco have both enacted strong agency-sponsored calling programs. Similar proposals are being debated in numerous states and counties.
Not all agency-sponsored calling programs are worth celebrating, however. Some jails (such as Clay, Dakota, Ramsey, and Rice Counties in Minnesota) have provided agency-sponsored calling, but only because they eliminated in-person visitation (other than visits by attorneys). Given the paramount importance of in-person visits for maintaining family connections, this type of trade-off is not worth making. ↩
Two different models of agency-sponsored calling have evolved among the few jurisdictions that have implemented this reform. Under the first model, used in New York City, the correctional agency pays 3¢ per minute for calls, not to exceed a total of $3 million in any given year. Under the other approach, used in San Francisco, the agency doesn’t pay based on call volume, but instead pays a fixed amount per phone that’s installed in the facility. (In San Francisco’s case, the agency pays $89.78 per phone, not to exceed $1.59 million for the three-year initial term of the contract. The agency agrees to pay additional amounts for video-calling equipment.) ↩
In 2015, the year after the FCC’s first rate caps went into effect, the Huffington Post — citing leaked slides from a Securus presentation to investors — reported that Securus was purchasing JPay because its non-phone products offered “faster-growing revenue streams” than phone calls.
Appendix table 9 shows the current “market share” of each phone provider, in terms of the percent of incarcerated people covered by each provider. ViaPath Technologies (formerly called Global Tel*Link) has a 30.4% market share (i.e. provides phone service to facilities holding approximately 30.4% of all incarcerated people), while Securus has a 29.5% market share. The market dominance of these two companies is the result of their years of buying up competitors. ↩
In fact, it gets even worse: Many prisons and jails use the new technology as an excuse to shut down critical in-person/physical services such as family visits, libraries, book donations, and mail. Shutting down these services hurts incarcerated people and may even have a negative effect on facility safety and recidivism rates (which are tied to people’s levels of contact with family during incarceration). ↩
For example, commission data from Albany County New York shows that while Securus kicks back a whopping 86% of phone call revenue back to the county, it gives the county just 20% of revenue from video visitation and eMessaging, and 10% of revenue from music, movies, and games. In November and December 2020, non-phone products amounted to more than three-quarters of Securus’ post-commissions revenue in Albany. For more on how these products give more power to the companies, see our sidebar on bundled contracts, and Stephen Raher’s law review article The Company Store and the Literally Captive Market. ↩
The FCC has two relevant caps on the cost of out-of-state calls from jails: Jails with an average daily population at least 1,000 people can charge no more than 16¢/minute, and all other jails can charge no more than 21¢ a minute. ↩
Individual jails and advocates may be able to use the jail’s commission reports to determine whether the call volume for in-state calls is suspiciously high. While, to our knowledge, there is no national figure on the number of minutes used for in-state landlines versus all other calls, we would be very suspicious of how a provider was rating calls if they reported more than 15% of their call volume was being charged the in-state rate. ↩
Also see our earlier support for a petition to the FCC asking for this relief: //static.prisonpolicy.org/phones/filings/2019-08-30PrisonPolicyInitiativeCommentOn19-232_re_USF.pdf ↩
While some companies make their rates easier to find than others, we were unable to find rates published on the websites of City Tele Coin, Combined Public Communications, Consolidated Telecom, Correct Solutions, Custom Teleconnect, Encartele, Prodigy, Smart Communications, Synergy, Talton, Turnkey Corrections. (And Encartele prices their calls in dollars per megabyte rather than dollars per minute.) ↩
State treasurers should expect all companies operating in their state in compliance with the law will be turning over unclaimed customer funds to the state unclaimed asset program in rough proportion to the number of incarcerated people served by that company. While there may be some differences in customer patterns between prisons and jails, companies turning over less funds than expected are likely to reflect either particularly aggressive and effective efforts to return customers’ money (which should be commended) or a reason to punish a company with monetary sanctions for subverting state unclaimed asset laws. ↩
For more up-to-date data on the rates published by Securus, ViaPath (GTL), and ICS, see the regularly updated data collected by our friends at Worth Rises at https://connectfamiliesnow.com/data. ↩
The FCC’s current 16¢ and 21¢ rate caps took effect in October 2021, so in many cases the companies, which had reported to the FCC the highest rates they charged during the year, had already lowered their rates during 2021 to comply with the new caps. ↩
Notably, Consolidated Telecom’s rates were accurate at the time of the FCC’s data collection, but the company informs us that it is in the process of reducing any rates over 21¢ to 20c or less, a process that the company expects to complete by the end of 2022. ↩
Notably, we corrected the average daily population for several NCIC facilities that were incorrectly reported as having an ADP of greater than 1,000 people. ↩
Notably, Turnkey Corrections/TW Vending notified us on September 16, 2022 that any rates that had been reported as higher than 21¢ were now 21¢ ↩
To help readers link to specific sections of this report, we created these special urls:
To help readers link to specific images in this report, we created these special urls:
Learn how to link to specific images and sections
The non-profit, non-partisan Prison Policy Initiative was founded in 2001 to expose the broader harm of mass criminalization and spark advocacy campaigns to create a more just society. It launched the national fight to keep the prison system from exerting undue influence on the political process (a.k.a. prison gerrymandering). The organization is known for its visual breakdown of mass incarceration in the U.S. and its campaigns against prison gerrymandering and the predatory prison and jail telephone industry.
All Prison Policy Initiative reports are collaborative endeavors, and this report is no different, building on an entire movement’s worth of research and strategy. The authors want to particularly thank the current and past staff members and consultants of our organization whose work this report is based on, as well as the advocates who have driven the remarkable progress to reduce prison and jail phone rates over the last decade. Lastly, we thank our donors, who give us the resources and the flexibility to quickly turn our insights into new movement resources.
Peter Wagner is an attorney and the Executive Director of the Prison Policy Initiative. He co-founded the Prison Policy Initiative in 2001 to spark a national discussion about mass incarceration. He is a co-author of two of the organization’s landmark reports on the dysfunction in the prison and jail phone market — Please Deposit All of Your Money in 2013 and the first State of Phone Justice report in 2019 — and has testified before the FCC in support of stronger market regulations.
Wanda Bertram is the Communications Strategist at the Prison Policy Initiative. In addition to serving as the primary media spokesperson for the organization, she has provided valuable research and insights on topics such as how the fall of Roe v. Wade will impact women on probation or parole, the exploitation of formerly incarcerated people in the labor market, and the hidden ways “prison tablets” are siphoning funds from incarcerated people and their families.