The Staggeringly High Price of a Prison Phone Call

The Staggeringly High Price of a Prison Phone Call

The Staggeringly High Price of a Prison Phone Call

It’s outrageous that a billion-dollar industry exists based on skimming profits from some of society’s most vulnerable people.


EDITOR’S NOTE: Each week we cross-post an excerpt from Katrina vanden Heuvel’s column at the Read the full text of Katrina’s column here.

As families gather this holiday season, it’s a heartbreaking time of year for those with incarcerated relatives. Not only are they deprived of seeing their loved ones in-person, but also they’re often forced to choose between having no contact whatsoever with those loved ones or accumulating staggering debt.

That’s because in the United States’ jails and prisons, many incarcerated people are charged steep fees to make phone calls to the outside world. On average, a 15-minute call costs $5.74, with some prisons charging a dollar or more per minute—not counting tacked-on hidden fees that can increase overall costs by up to 40 percent.

All told, the correctional telecom industry rakes in more than $1.4 billion annually from prisoner phone calls. That cost is generally passed on to the families of incarcerated people—who are disproportionately low-income, and disproportionately people of color. More than one-third of families with incarcerated relatives go into debt to cover the cost of staying in touch.

Read the full text of Katrina’s column here.

Dear reader,

I hope you enjoyed the article you just read. It’s just one of the many deeply reported and boundary-pushing stories we publish every day at The Nation. In a time of continued erosion of our fundamental rights and urgent global struggles for peace, independent journalism is now more vital than ever.

As a Nation reader, you are likely an engaged progressive who is passionate about bold ideas. I know I can count on you to help sustain our mission-driven journalism.

This month, we’re kicking off an ambitious Summer Fundraising Campaign with the goal of raising $15,000. With your support, we can continue to produce the hard-hitting journalism you rely on to cut through the noise of conservative, corporate media. Please, donate today.

A better world is out there—and we need your support to reach it.


Katrina vanden Heuvel
Editorial Director and Publisher, The Nation

Ad Policy