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Massachusetts Makes Calls Free From Prisons and Jails

Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey (D) signed H. 1796 on November 15, 2023, making hers the fifth state in the nation to eliminate fees for prison and jail phone calls. When the law took effect on December 1, 2023, the state joined Connecticut, California, Minnesota and Colorado in providing no-cost communications for those incarcerated.

State Sen. Cindy Creem (D-Middlesex) and Rep. Chynah Tyler (D-Boston) sponsored the legislation, which also covers video calls and email. Their efforts gained momentum in July 2023 when fellow state lawmakers included funds to cover the cost in the state budget. However, Gov. Healey delayed implementation in response to financial concerns voiced by county officials.

To resolve those worries, a fund administered by the Executive Office of Administration and Finance will rebate counties’ additional call costs. Existing telecommunication contracts with companies like Securus will continue until expiration and then be renegotiated.

Previously, the cost of a phone call was 12 cents per minute in the state Department of Correction and 14 cents per minute at most county jails. Advocates noted that the financial burden disproportionately affected the families of Black and Latino prisoners and detainees, who make up more than half of the state’s incarcerated population.

Senior Attorney Bonnie Tenneriello at nonprofit advocacy Prisoners’ Legal Services expressed satisfaction with the legislative success, noting that incarcerated individuals and their families were often forced to choose between paying for calls and meeting basic needs.  


Source: WGBH