The High Price Of Imprisonment

Author  Eric Easter

A growing list of costs are being passed on to inmates and their families. 

Urban News Service As incarceration rates continue to grow around the United States, the e enormous costs of some prison services are increasingly being paid by those who can least afford it the families of inmates. In 2001, when the DC Department of Corrections closed its notorious prison facility in Lorton, Virginia in 2001, Ulandis Forte, in prison for murder, was relocated to facilities far away from home, and family. His grandmother, Martha Wright, nearly blind and unable to travel, made frequent calls to prisons out of state in New Mexico, then Arizona, then Kentucky only to find herself deeply in hardship and debt due to exorbitant fees charged by the private companies contracted to provide prison phone services.

Forte and Wright are only the most well known among thousands of families struggling to stay in contact with incarcerated relatives. Their fight lies at the heart of more than a decade of work by lawyers and activists in courts and before the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) to find relief.

Yet fifteen years later, with only some successes to claim, the fight continues, stalled repeatedly by bureaucracy and the power of corporate lobbyists. But even as that phone battle looks for resolution, the companies providing t hose phones are finding new and creative ways to make an array of new services Dz essential dz to prison management. And nearly all come at a cost to inmates and their families.


The evidence is clear inmates who stay in regular contact with families and friends fare much better in prison, adjust to life better upon release and have a dramatically better chance of staying out of prison. Phone calls are intended to solve a critical problem when visitation becomes both a financial and logistical burden.