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Free Communication Calls for Incarcerated People approved in Public Safety Bill 

SAINT PAUL, Minn. - The Minnesota House of Representatives passed SF 2909, the Judiciary and Public Safety conference committee report. The budget bill includes significant investments in public defense and civil legal services, an effective ban on No Knock Warrants, the creation of the Office of Missing and Murdered Black Women, and funding for community violence prevention.

Numerous provisions to support the efforts of prisoners to reintegrate into society were also included in this budget bill. One of those included in the conference report was a provision, authored by Representative Esther Agbaje (DFL-Minneapolis), that would make voice communication free across all state prisons.   

"Incarceration can be a very isolating experience, and it can be difficult for incarcerated people to maintain their relationships with their loved ones," said Rep. Esther Agbaje. "There is a significant financial disparity among BIPOC incarcerated people. Eliminating the financial barrier will allow individuals to maintain strong family ties, reduce recidivism rates and increase mental and emotional well-fare. Incarceration can take a toll on mental and physical health, but research has shown that regular contact with family members can help to improve both.”    

Prison telecom is a billion-dollar industry dominated by just a few private-equity-backed corporations that make hundreds of millions each year exploiting family ties. For years in Minnesota, the state has compounded the predatory rates the industry charged by adding and collecting a 40 percent commission on call revenues that amounts to $1.4 million annually. The passing of the Public Safety and Judiciary budget bill begins to put an end to that practice.

 

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