No-Cost Calls To Begin Dec. 1 After 'Uphill Battle'

Photo: Getty Images

BOSTON (State House News Service) — Massachusetts became the fifth state in the country to allow incarcerated individuals to make unlimited phone calls free of charge when Gov. Maura Healey on Thursday signed a no-cost calls bill into law.

Healey stamped her approval on a measure lawmakers originally included in the fiscal year 2024 budget after back-and-forth with the Legislature about its effective date.

The new law, which begins Dec. 1, will allow people in the state's correctional facilities to make unlimited phone calls or use other communication services with their loved ones without needing to pay. Advocates with the Keeping Families Connected/No Cost Calls coalition that backed the measure say four other states have similar laws, but Massachusetts is the first state in the country to extend its provisions to county jails.

William Ragland, chairman of the African American Coalition Committee of men incarcerated at MCI-Norfolk, said in a statement provided by the No Cost Calls coalition that it has been an "uphill battle" seeking the change.

"Black and brown people -- many in poverty -- make up 21 percent of the Massachusetts population but roughly 60% of its prison and jail population. It is a monstrosity and repugnant. It's not surprising then that Black and brown people spend the most on phone calls, video calls, and e-messages with their incarcerated loved ones, to the tune of $25 million annually," Ragland said. "Given our low prison wages, our families are often left with the bill, deciding whether to put money on their loved ones' phone accounts or pay their rent, put gas in their cars, or put food on their tables. This is all while prisons, jails, and their telecom vendors rake in profits."

Lawmakers previously approved a version of the no-cost calls measure in 2022, but it died without House and Senate agreement after Gov. Charlie Baker sought to attach pieces of his so-called dangerousness reform bill to it.

"Ensuring that individuals in state and county prisons can keep in contact with their loved ones is key to enhancing rehabilitation, reducing recidivism, and improving community safety," Healey said in a statement Thursday. "I'm proud to sign this important legislation and grateful to the Legislature and advocates for their partnership."

Written by Chris Lisinski/SHNS

Follow WBZ NewsRadio: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | iHeartmedia App | TikTok

Sponsored Content

Sponsored Content