Allow for greater federal prisoner reentry success by increasing the phone minute limit
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This petition is for the U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Prisons and the U.S. Congress to modify the inmate telephone regulations, making inmate telephone calls 500 minutes each month instead of the current 300 minutes per calendar month limitation.
Can a marriage or other relationship survive with only 10 days of communication a month? Should a child be limited in today’s technological age to 300 minutes of advice from his/her parent? What is more personal, an e-mail or a phone call? We believe a phone call.
THE ADVANCES IN TECHNOLOGY SINCE 2008 HAVE MADE THE 300 MINUTE LIMITATION OF TELEPHONE USAGE BY FEDERAL PRISONERS TOO RESTRICTIVE, UNNECESSARY AND BURDENSOME FOR INMATES TO MAINTAIN FAMILY AND PRO-SOCIAL COMMUNITY TIES.
Currently, every Federal prisoner is afforded a 300 minutes per calendar month limitation for telephone usage. These 300 minutes each month are roughly 10 minutes per day to budget out for 30 days. Phone calls are a maximum of 15 minutes with a wait time of 15, 30 or 60 minutes between phone calls.
Studies have shown that when inmates are able to communicate more with loved ones, they suffer from less anxiety and depression. They maintain better and healthier relationships, and have less of a chance of being re-incarcerated.
WHY IS THIS A PROBLEM?
It is a known fact that prisoners who have outside contacts are more easily managed in the prisons retributive and non-correctional setting. Currently, Federal prisoners must budget and balance 300 telephone minutes each month among parents, siblings, a spouse, children and all others to include legal representatives. Maintaining family ties, parental recognition with children and spousal support are strained as prisoners are forced to make 2-3 minute calls and are still unable to preserve phone minutes for the entire month.
Prisoners deal with an array of emotions, restrictions and personal decisions. While the prisons environment is hostile for many reasons, the most weighty prison punishments are movement restriction, and communication restriction. Families are split and often broken by imprisonment causing increased climates of negative behavior among prisoners.
Federal prisoners can write letters, receive personal visits, send e-mail and make telephone calls. Very few prisoners receive consistent visits, and letters have decreased with the use of e-mail. The email system is wholly owned by the Federal Bureau of PRisons and is therefore a huge profit center for the Inmate Trust Fund. Telephone calls are the next best communication method after visits, and unlike the unlimited nature of email, the telephone is extremely and excessively restrictive, but real time and not delayed, unlike e-mail.
The telephone is the highest regarded tool by prisoners. Prisoners who cannot type or write well prefer to use the telephone where emotions can be picked up in a voice and assurances can be confirmed or denied.
With long prison sentences and inadequate communication, prisoners become more disrespectful of the criminal justice system, more violent, more prone to limited thinking, shut off from civilized living, disconnected from important relationships and less able to be rehabilitated.
Making the change of the telephone usage system to 500 is not unreasonable. It is smart for criminal justice and rehabilitation.
All telephone plans outside of prison have changed since 2008. Homes have unlimited call capabilities, cellular phones have unlimited capabilities, and even small children have their own phones. No one is limited to a restrictive number of phone minutes as long as the usage is paid for.
Federal prison phone calls are pay-as-you-go and when situations arise and family needs to speak with a prisoner, he or she may have the money but not the minutes available to make a phone call. In this case, a call home is not possible.
When a child is sick or beginning a first week of school, caring parents in prison want to talk to them, encourage them and be a presence in these precious moments of life. However, phone minute limitations restrict an inmate from calling daily due to their fear of using up all of the allowed minutes.
Aging parents and other relatives are increasingly burdened by Federal prisoners being confined hundreds of miles away in rural areas. Often times prisoners are outside of the 500-mile designation, making visits difficult and often impossible. A prisoner from California can be in Texas. A prisoner from Washington D.C. can be in Florida, and a prisoner from New York can be in Hawaii. When visits are not possible due to distance and costs, the telephone is the logical choice. Families are punished by the phone minute limitation just as much-if not more-than the prisoner.
AN EXAMPLE OF A TYPICAL MONTH
A Federal prisoner may have an average of two children who happen to live in separate households.
As a Federal prisoner who needs to call his mom, both children, and his significant other, the limitation of 300 telephone minutes burdens and restricts the prisoner’s daily outreach to his family.
When calling your children, it is very hard to limit your call to less than 15 minutes. Children value their parents and have daily experiences they want to share with even an incarcerated parent. Mothers and fathers constantly want to know their incarcerated children are doing okay, and spouses have important information to share with prisoners on a daily basis. Relationships cannot be maintained with such limited communication.
Continuing our example, this same prisoner calls his kids in each household to talk for 15 minutes. These calls cannot be every day. At 30 consumed minutes for both kids, that’s 210 minutes used if a call is made everyday of the week. At this pace, a strong paternal presence cannot last the entire four weeks of any given month.
Should the call be morning or evening, every day or skip days?
Relationships need more than a 15 minute phone call.
The 300-minute limitation makes it impossible to speak to all necessary parties in a given month… spouse, mom, and children. Federal prisoners tell us there is not a good balance for calling that is sufficient to maintaining a healthy relationship. For this reason, the 300-minute limitation should be removed and replaced by an increased minute telephone usage system, because these same relationships are the catalyst for successful reentry and rehabilitation. Think about what an extra 200 minutes a month could accomplish in keeping relationships and ties to the outside world alive.
Pundits are saying the U.S. must be smart-on-crime because the time is right for smart change. Being smart on crime includes being smart on criminal justice, which includes being smart on the incarceration phase.
It is not enough to modify how people are charged with crimes, how the incarcerated are dealt with must also be changed. Federal Corrections Institute Texarkana adopted a clever and smart slogan which says, “A fat jail is a happy jail.” Why would a jail say this? Because if inmates are not restricted beyond reason, violence goes down, theft of food from the kitchen diminishes and behavior toward staff stays within acceptable and borderline pleasant ranges.
Prisoners often say, “My visits, stamps, and telephone calls aren’t for me, they are for my family.” The outdated, restrictive and oppressive limit of 300-minutes per month is overly punitive and unrealistic for family and community ties, and should be lifted.
Families are affected by this restriction and families are the strongest corrective and rehabilitative force that society has.
Please sign this petition to help the New Leaf Alliance Foundation acquire as many signatures as possible to have the 300-minutes per calendar month limitation lifted. This isn’t soft-on-crime, it’s smart-on-rehabilitation.
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