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Telephone Rates and Access to Literature

Overview
Conservative Solutions
Resources

Overview

Prisons are artificially inflating the prices of long-distance telephone calls, forcing families to pay exorbitant prices if they want to communicate with their loved ones, and then pocketing the extra revenue. If families choose to use a call-forwarding provider to acquire a local phone number, they are often viciously blocked by the prison’s Inmate Calling Service provider, which does not want its telecommunications monopoly threatened.

Access to Books

There is a longstanding history of extreme regulation on literature within the prison system. Unnecessary rules are in place that prevent inmates from receiving messages from loved ones that could be crucial in their rehabilitation process. Such rules include: no hallmark greeting cards, no polaroid pictures, and no more than 25 pages at a time. For instance, an incarcerated woman wanted to learn about what it would take to open a business following her release. She asked her dad to send her some online research on the topic, so he promptly sent a 26 page informative packet. However, the entire packet was withheld from the woman because the mail limit is 25 pages and anything over that limit is strictly prohibited. Access to these types of materials can help reduce recidivism as they provide inmates with the ability to plan their next move following their release. Preventing access to educational programs, materials, and any other informative content is not helpful to the criminal justice system, and frankly strips American inmates of basic freedoms.

The regulation of mail to this extremity is already bad enough, but now books are also being examined under this type of scrutiny, resulting in censorship within the prison system. Multiple studies have shown the positive impact of reading on recidivism. The educational pastime is not only a source of entertainment throughout the long days, but also a way for inmates to learn about life and the human condition. Books provide prisoners with how-to lessons that would help them get a job, or start a business, or even improve family relations following their release. To deny inmates the ability to read these books is to prevent their rehabilitation, thereby not achieving the purpose of the criminal justice system. Books are chosen to be banned based on many different factors, for example: nudity. While this at first may seem reasonable, a look at its impact brings to light how this rule takes away most books on art history. With the great numbers of incarcerated people, there is bound to be at least a few that would have an interest in art history and potentially use what they learn through their readings to help them get a job in the field. Banning educational books such as those in the field of art history can be detrimental to the rehabilitation process of inmates and is harmful to the criminal justice system. Aside from educational books, some books are banned for completely unknown reasons, for example: some coloring books have been confiscated, as well as Where’s Waldo. There is no need to enforce these rules and the censorship taking place within the prison system is unacceptable.

Conservative Solutions

  • Reduce telephone rates
  • Reduce the distance between families in order to have less of a need for phone calls
  • Increase hourly wages to increase ability to afford phone rates
We need a grassroots army to fix it.