Do inmates have a right to cheap communications?

One of the most heated debates that have taken place over the last 10 years in the prison communication space has been whether or not prisoners enjoy the right to cheap communications. Many inmates, families of the incarcerated and prisoner rights groups, such as the Prison Policy Initiative, have long argued that prisoners have a right to make outgoing phone calls at reasonable rates.

 

Many of these arguments center around the fact that studies have shown that prisoners who are able to stay in constant communication with family members on the outside have both better outcomes inside and outside of prison. Recidivism rates for those prisoners who are allowed to maintain pro-social relationships while incarcerated are far lower than those who withdrawal into the social life of prison. Inmates who are able to maintain meaningful relationships with their family members and loved ones are also far less likely to engage in criminal activity while incarcerated, leading to much safer and more effectively run carceral institutions.

 

But many wardens and other prison administrators are quick to point out that there is absolutely no constitutional right to enjoy to cheap communications. In fact, legal scholars often cite the fact that there is no constitutional guarantee of any right to communication at all for the nation’s inmates, shooting a serious hole in the argument that inmates have some sort of natural right to cheap phone calls.

 

Nevertheless, companies like Securus Technologies, the leading provider of inmate communication services in the United States, still recognize the validity of the arguments that prisoners who are able to maintain meaningful relationships with those on the outside are much more likely to be successful reintegrating into society upon release. It is just for this reason that Securus works tirelessly to provide cheap calling rates for inmates at the institutions in which it operates.