Legislature debates bill to control high-cost calls for inmates

The Unicameral debated a bill (LB776) that would require city and county jails to provide inmates with affordable communications, via telephone or video conferencing, with their attorney and family. Omaha Sen. John McCollister introduced the bill.

A person housed in a city or county jail has not necessarily been found guilty of a crime yet, said McCollister. In fact, he said, a study by the ACLU found that over half of inmates held in jail are awaiting trial and are in jail simply because they cannot afford to post bail. 

McCollister said no one can prepare properly for an upcoming trial if they cannot talk with their attorney on a regular basis. The cost of a 15-minute call can vary from $2 to $20, he said, depending on where the inmate is housed, which can be prohibitive, McCollister said. 

Further, he said, research has shown that regular contact between inmates and their families and attorneys leads to lower rates of recidivism upon their release. 

“This would ensure that city and county budgets are not based on the assumption that they’ll be making a profit from detainees and their families,” McCollister said.

Senators took no action on the bill following the debate. 

Full story here.

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