Free Phone Calls
the FIGHT TO STOP NYC FROM charging incarcerated people and their loved ones for telephone calls
For years, New York City, like many other cities, has generated revenue off of the people incarcerated in its local jails and the communities that support them.
In 2017, the city generated $22.6 million in telephone call commissions, commissary and vending machine sales, and disciplinary ticket fines. While some of these revenues merely cover the cost of products purchased for the incarcerated population, many translate into pure profits to the city. And though these profits are an incredibly small portion of the city's $1.4 billion correctional budget, they represent a substantial portion of the limited resources of the economically distressed communities targeted by its jail system.
On June 15, 2018, the New York City Council adopted the FY 2019 budget and, like prior years, it included over $20 million in expected revenues from directly impacted communities. But there was still an important bill on the table that would help address a significant segment of these profits. Introduced by Speaker Corey Johnson, Intro 741 made telephone calls from New York City jails free and prohibited the city from collecting revenues on the provision of telephone services.
The Zero Profits Coalition fought tirelessly to pass Intro 741, which now protects directly impacted communities from the annual extraction of nearly $10 million by the city and its telephone contractor, Securus. On July 18, 2018, the New York City Council voted 42-3 to pass Intro 741 and roughly three weeks later, on August 6, Mayor Bill de Blasio signed it into law.
On May 1, 2019, New York City officially became the only jurisdiction in the country to have free phone calls out of its city jails. Overnight, call volume jumped 38% from city jails. There were 8,700 more calls to moms, children, and social workers. Since New York City’s win, cities, counties, and states across the county have introduced legislation to make prison and jail calls free.
Phone Calls From New York City Jails Will Soon Be Free, New York Times
City Must Stop Using Incarcerated People as Revenue Source, Gotham Gazette