The Power Of Staying Connected & Love

In addition to keeping families better connected, studies show a public safety benefit to reducing prison phone call rates.

Incarcerated people who maintain contact with the outside world are less likely to commit new crimes upon re-entering society. Family and friends can help a formerly incarcerated person find housing and employment.

Advocates argue that prison communications companies, namely Securus and Global Tel Link, have taken advantage of minimal government regulation and charged above-market value rates for phone calls in many states since the 1990s. State and local corrections departments that contract with the companies typically receive a percentage commission of each call, which may be used to pay for staff equipment, maintenance needs or prisoner programs.


Solitary Confinement Policies Could Make The Prison Pandemic Worse

In December, COVID-19 infections in prisons in the United States hit a record 25,000 in one week. Among correctional staff that month, there were an additional 5,000 new infections a week, leading to spread in surrounding communities.

More than 580,000 people at correctional institutions have been infected. The prisoner death toll has surpassed 2,000. Eleven months into the pandemic, the US prison system has not gotten control of its rising caseload, which is likely still underestimated.

One way to distinguish solitary confinement from COVID-19 quarantine is to give isolated people access to materials that help pass the time and keep them connected to others.


Parole Boards Approved Fewer Releases In 2020 Than In 2019, Despite The Raging Pandemic

Prisons have had 10 months to take measures to reduce their populations and save lives amidst the ongoing pandemic.

Yet our comparison of 13 states’ parole grant rates from 2019 and 2020 reveals that many have failed to utilize parole as a mechanism for releasing more people to the safety of their homes.

In over half of the states we studied—Alabama, Iowa, Michigan, Montana, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina – between 2019 and 2020, there was either no change or a decrease in parole grant rates.


POLICY WONK: The History Of Large Scale Release

To protect the American public from COVID-19, schools have closed, non-essential stores have been shuttered, people with desk jobs have started working from home, and public gatherings have been prohibited.

But the criminal justice system continues to hum along as though nothing has changed: Most prisons and many jails have done very little to reduce the population density that puts both incarcerated people and staff at grave risk.

To justify their lack of action, DOC directors, governors, sheriffs, and district attorneys imply that saving the lives of people behind bars is not worth the inevitable public safety cost of releasing them. This talking point is as old as time.

It’s also out of step with history.