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First holiday season for free prison calls in Connecticut

Federal regulators will vote on  capping the cost of phone calls from prison, which are far more expensive than ordinary calls.
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Federal regulators will vote on capping the cost of phone calls from prison, which are far more expensive than ordinary calls.

This is the first Christmas that Connecticut prisoners will be able to make and receive phone calls for free. The state was the first in the nation to stop charging for prisoner calls.

“If you are locked up in a local jail you are probably paying about $3 for a 15-minute phone call,” said Wanda Bertram of the Prison Policy Initiative, a national advocacy group campaigning against the high charges by private providers for phone calls from prisons and jails.

"That does not sound like a lot but over the period that someone is locked up in jail, those costs really add up and plenty of families go into debt,” Bertram said.

But that is no longer the case in Connecticut because of a law that took effect last summer.

“Every mother should hear from their son on Christmas. And every son should have the opportunity to call their mother on Christmas,” said state Rep. Steve Stafstrom (D-CT). As co-chair of the Judiciary Committee, he helped pass the law.

“And this legislation ensured that is possible for every family in Connecticut regardless of their financial means,” Stafstrom said.

The only other state in the country that has approved free prison calls is California.

As WSHU Public Radio’s award-winning senior political reporter, Ebong Udoma draws on his extensive tenure to delve deep into state politics during a major election year.