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Indiana Caps Phone Rates in State Prisons and Jails

by Ashleigh N. Dye

On July 1, 2022, a new Indiana law took effect that caps the price charged for phone calls in state prisons and jails. With the change, those held by the state Department of Corrections (DOC) now pay 12 cents per minute for a call. However, since most state prisoners don’t make much more than that per-hour working a prison job, the new rate still means they can afford a 15-minute phone call just once or twice a week.

Despite the price cut, the law is projected to increase call revenue as prisoners and detainees place calls more frequently at the new, lower price. Conveniently, that also locks in profits for phone service providers like GTL, which was able to kick back $12.6 million of its revenue from DOC prisoners to the state in the 2021 fiscal year. That kickback was not used for prisons or prisoner programming but to upgrade computer technology on the state government campus in Indianapolis.

Still, the sponsor of House Bill 1181 in the state senate, Sen. Jon Ford (R-Terre Haute), insisted that cutting the price of phone calls will reduce recidivism by enabling inmates to stay connected to their families. State prisoners held by DOC, who were paying 24 cents per minute, saw their costs cut in half.

Savings vary at county jails around the Hoosier State, where per-minute costs are capped at 21 cents under the new law, except at the Marion County Jail in Indianapolis, where rates were already 14 cents per minute. Previously, per-minute costs at jails outside Marion County ranged from 22 cents to $4.70, according to the state Legislative Services Agency (LSA).

Also included in the legislation is a plan to shut down the youth offender boot camp at Pendleton Juvenile Correctional Facility in Madison County. Comparing its 40% recidivism rate to the 30% rate at other state juvenile facilities, Ford called the boot camp “obsolete” and “not evidence-based.”

“It frees up resources for rehabilitation or treatment centers,” he added of the closure, which has been on and off since at least 2014. “Statistically, we found that (boot camps) really don’t have the effect on children that we thought they did in the past.” 

Additional sources: Prison Policy Initiative, Terre Haute Tribune Star, Times of Northwest Indiana

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