HB 6714 passes Committee vote, moves Connecticut one step closer to prison phone justice

HARTFORD, CT — Today, prison phone justice advocates are celebrating the Joint Committee on Judiciary’s passage of Connecticut House Bill 6714, which would make not just phone calls, but all communication out of Connecticut correctional facilities free. The bill passed and now goes to the Appropriations Committee.

Bianca Tylek, Executive Director of Worth Rises, applauded today’s outcome: “For years, prison telecom corporation Securus has paid Connecticut millions in corporate kickbacks to gouge its incarcerated and their support networks, disproportionately impacting communities of color and poverty. H.B. 6714 has put a national spotlight on Connecticut. Currently ranking 49th in the country in the affordability of prison phone calls, Connecticut now has the opportunity, and imperative, to become a leader in prison phone justice. H.B. 6714 will prevent Securus and the state from draining millions of dollars from the people who can least afford it.”

In an organizational statement, CT Children with Incarcerated Parents Initiative emphasized the people who are most impacted by exorbitant phone costs: “When a parent is incarcerated, specifically a father, a family’s income drops by an average of 22%. As a result, mothers and caregivers report being unable to pay for their children’s basic necessities, including food, utilities, rent and medical care — creating reliance on state aid, programs and services. It is also these same mothers and caregivers that are paying for the phone calls that we are speaking about today.”

Sarah Russell of the Civil Justice Clinic at the Quinnipiac University School of Law noted the benefits of making access to phone calls easier: “Research shows that individuals are more likely to succeed upon release if they are able to stay connected to family while incarcerated. By imposing some of the country’s highest prison phone call costs, Connecticut makes these family connections difficult to maintain. HB 6714 would help preserve families and encourage successful reentry.”

Brian Highsmith, Skadden Fellow at the National Consumer Law Center, stated: “The commercialization of prisoners’ communication with their support networks pushes Connecticut families deeper into poverty and makes it harder for people who have contact with our criminal punishment system to succeed. This legislation would keep families connected and reduce opportunities for the financial exploitation of low-income people in this state.”

Alexi Jones, Policy Analyst at Prison Policy Initiative, underlined the contradiction between state policy and state politics: “With Connecticut’s current policy, one of the wealthiest and most reliably blue states in the nation has, in essence, created a regressive system of taxation that targets the state’s most vulnerable residents.”