Tag Archives: prison

Let Convicts Make Calls, They Break Fewer Laws

26 May

Not someone you want calling you. Photo: Wired

Last year I did a piece for Wired about cell phones in prisons – how they’re being smuggled in by the thousands and are being used for literally everything from calling Mom to ordering murders. Prison reformers opined that the best way to beat the problem is to make it easier for inmates to call their loved ones more easily. In most lockups, their only option is artificially overpriced collect calls. Cheaper legit calls would reduce demand for smuggled mobiles, goes the thinking, and the result would be fewer handsets floating around for bad guys to use for evil ends. Well, according to Nebraska correctional authorities, it’s true. As the Omaha World-Herald reports,

State Corrections Director Bob Houston said Nebraska has made it so cheap for prisoners to use the regular prison phone system that there’s no monetary incentive to smuggle in phones.

Only six cell phones were confiscated from Nebraska inmates during the past year, Houston said. He attributes the low number to a decision made years ago not to seek profit from inmate phone calls.

In Nebraska, inmates pay only 50 cents for a local telephone call on the regular prison lines….By contrast, Iowa charges $2 per local call.

Safer prisons, happier moms – but sad news for phone companies, which rake in millions from overpriced inmate calls.

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Obama: Smarter on Drugs

13 May

The Obama administration just came out with their first formal strategy on illegal drugs, and for the first time in at least 40 years, the federal government is taking steps in the right direction. It’s a long way from a wholesale revamp of the disastrous War on Drugs that has helped send America’s prison population skyrocketing while doing nothing to reduce the drug trade, but it does put more emphasis on treating drugs as a health issue rather than a criminal justice one. That’s an approach that has paid off in places like Vancouver, Canada.

And it’s just the latest refreshingly common-sensical reforms Obama has supported. As the Boston Globe sums up:

“Obama [repealed] a two-decade old ban on the use of federal money for needle-exchange programs to reduce the spread of HIV. His administration also said it won’t target medical marijuana patients or caregivers as long as they comply with state laws and aren’t fronts for drug traffickers. Earlier this year, Obama called on Congress to eliminate the disparity in sentencing that punishes crack crimes more heavily than those involving powder cocaine.”

The folks at the Drug Policy Alliance break it all down – and point out some ways Obama could go further.