Should Inmates Pay For Phone Calls?
Phone calls from county jails are expensive, and affect indigent inmates more than those with means. Indigent defendants are more likely to remain in county jail waiting for trial, and are forced to pay unrealistic prices for phone calls and food. Most county jails in Montana contract with Securus Technologies to provide phone access. Phone calls on Securus are limited to 15 minutes. An in-state call from the Butte Silver Bow County jail costs $4.70 to connect the call, and $0.61 per minute after that. A 15-minute phone call from the jail costs the inmate $13.24. These rates vary widely even within the various county jails in Montana. The cheapest 15-minute call is in Cascade County, at $1.50 - just $0.10 per minute with no connection fee. The most expensive jail to call from is the Pondera County Jail, which charges $5.30 to connect, and $0.67 per minute, costing the inmate $14.68 to talk on the phone for 15 minutes.
San Francisco County has recently taken a step in the right direction. They have removed all fees for inmate calls. This helps even the gap between indigent inmates and those with means. Inmates are now able to ensure someone is available to secure their belongings if their incarceration results in eviction, ensure their children and families are safe, and communicate with loved ones who may be gravely ill. These exorbitant fees are just another way that indigent inmates suffer more than those with money in their bank accounts.