Inmates' families protest call rates in Mass.

The families have asked the department to investigate what they say are excessive telephone rates and poor quality phone service in state prisons and county jails


The Associated Press via The Berkshire Eagle

BOSTON  -- Christine Duarte spends between $450 and $650 a month to talk to her husband while he awaits trial in a New Bedford jail.

The jail is located only about 15 minutes away from her home in Fall River, but her high phone charges are more fitting of a long-distance bill, she says.

"What a strain the phone puts on everybody. I'm sure if the phone was a lot cheaper, people would be able to stay more connected," Duarte said.

Duarte and family members of other inmates plan to testify today during a hearing before the Massachusetts Dep art ment of Telecommunications and Cable. The families have asked the department to investigate what they say are excessive telephone rates and poor quality phone service in state prisons and county jails.

Duarte said she pays a $3 surcharge every time her husband calls her from jail, regardless of the length of the call, plus a per-minute fee. She said that many times, the call will suddenly end, forcing her husband to call her back and pay another $3 charge. Every time she adds money to her phone calling card so that her husband can call her, she is charged a fee of $6.95, she said.

Prisoners' Legal Services and a private Boston law firm filed a petition to the department on behalf of inmates, their families, attorneys and other users of prison telephone service. They are asking the department to limit telephone rates and investigate the quality of phone service.

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