Re-blogged from Prison Policy Initiative
For families of incarcerated dads, Father’s day comes at a premium
by Lucius Couloute
In the U.S., we often hear ‘you do the crime, you do the time.’ But incarceration isn’t just an individual-level problem, it affects entire networks of people. This Father’s Day I’d like to bring attention to the pernicious consequences of parental incarceration and the exploitive ways in which private telecom companies profit from the separation of families.
Crime has been declining for decades, yet the number of children with a father in state or federal prison is now over 1.5 million. If we include jails, 1 out of every 28 children now has an incarcerated parent. And the latest estimates suggest that Black and Hispanic children are up to six times more likely to have an incarcerated parent than their white peers.
From 1991 to 2007 the number of minor children with a father in state or federal prison increased 77%.
Victims of a war waged – largely on poor communities of color – long before they were born, over-criminalization forces children to contend with a vast array of barriers that prevent upward economic mobility. Parental incarceration is associated with an increased risk of childhood poverty, health problems, school suspension and expulsion, and can be a source of stigma for children as they navigate the world around them. During a period when bipartisan support for reform appears to be in flux, it’s important to remember that young lives are at stake when we over-incarcerate.
And as if the forced separation of fathers from their loved ones wasn’t enough, telecom providers have found a way to benefit – and indeed profit – from parental incarceration. At a time when phone companies provide unlimited long distance calling for people like me and you, it can cost an incarcerated person and their family up to $24.95 for a single 15-minute in-state phone conversation. These exorbitant costs help explain why over $1.3 billion a year goes to the prison telephone industry.
A more recent development has been the growth of the video visitation industry; where local jails collude with private companies to charge up to $1.50/minute for low quality offsite video conferencing services (not including any additional fees that get tacked on for good measure). As jails across the country implement this technology they tend to scale back or eliminate in-person visits altogether, all the while receiving kick-backs from the private, for-profit telecom companies.
The exploitative practices of the prison communication industry – which penalize families for trying to stay in touch – amounts to a kind of regressive taxation. In this case, the profits come disproportionately from poor people already struggling with the absence of a loved one. From both a policy perspective, and from the perspective of families, replacing in-person visits with poorly functioning and expensive video visitation is unacceptable.
So on this Father’s Day, millions of children will be without their fathers, and without the ability to pay the outrageous costs associated with speaking to them. I hope that by the time Father’s Day comes around next year, state lawmakers take the initiative to better regulate prison telecom companies, and most importantly, reduce the number of incarcerated people.
Never mind the fact that we are not making progress for rehabilitation of inmates by keeping them in solitary, not educating them, and not teaching them skills so they can get jobs; we the taxpayers, are also paying for that failure!
Below is the 2016 annual cost per inmate for incarceration in California. Please take a look at this, because this is your money and you are not getting a good return for your dollars! Speak to your congress person and let them know you want a change for the better. There is a 60-70% recidivism rate. That could be lowered with programs like Hope for Prisoners in Nevada, more job training and better education. Take these people out of solitary and put them into jobs that will provide them skills for the outside. By the way, it costs more to keep an inmate in solitary than in general population.
How much does it cost to incarcerate an inmate?
California’s Annual Cost to Incarcerate an Inmate in Prison
|Type of Expenditure
||Per Inmate Costs
|Inmate Health Care
|Facility Operations and Records
|Facility operations (maintenance and utilities)
|Maintenance of inmate records
|Reception, testing, assignment
|Inmate Food and Activities
|Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
- It costs an average of about $71,000 per year to incarcerate an inmate in prison in California.
- Over three-quarters of these costs are for security and inmate health care.
- Since 2010-11, the average annual cost has increased by about $22,000 or about 45 percent. This includes an increase of $7,900 for security and $7,200 for inmate health care. This increase has been driven by various factors, including (1) employee compensation, (2) increased inmate health care costs, and (3) operational costs related to additional prison capacity to reduce prison overcrowding.
Last Updated: March 2017
This morning I was reading a blog from Soni Quick who writes “Inside the Forbidden Outside”. She has a lot of information relating to incarceration, and I enjoy her blog. Today she promoted “Ink from the Pen Magazine”, which showcases a lot of fabulous art from behind bars. You can purchase inmate’s art from their site. Please do look at this site as well as Soni’s blog.
I sincerely believe the way inmates are treated is not productive for rehabilitation. If the prisons themselves promoted inmates who have talents, put more inmates into jobs where they can learn, and made sure all inmates got an education so they could survive on the outside, the end result would be fewer prisoners, fewer prisons, and more productive members of society.
Taxpayers … listen up. Your tax dollars are not being used effectively. There is a 60-70% recidivism rate. You are paying anywhere from $25 to $75.00 per day to house inmates!
I’ll post the Annual cost for California in my next blog.
In the meantime, remember to take a look at Brett McKeehan’s book Solitary Words.
It has some terrific art and poetry! Available on Amazon: