Testimony on SB 972, An Act Concerning the Cost of Telecom Services in Correctional Facilities

Committee on Judiciary
March 21, 2021
Submitted: Amber Kelly, PhD, MSW, LCSW

On behalf of the National Association of Social Workers, Connecticut chapter, representing over 2,300 members, we are in strong support of S.B. 972. This bill would eliminate the cost of communications between incarcerated CT residents and their families and communities, and help in building stronger, safer communities for us all.

For many years Connecticut families have paid some of the highest rates in the country as they have sought for communication and support for our incarcerated residents. In the past year Connecticut ranks HIGHEST IN THE NATION for the per minute cost of phone calls from prison. Connecticut families pay more than $12 million to talk with their incarcerated loved ones, with many families faced with the choice between paying bills and buying groceries and communicating with incarcerated family members.

Evidenced-based policies to decrease recidivism and disciplinary concerns. The National Association of Social Workers, Connecticut Chapter believes in evidenced-based policies for keeping our communities safe. Research shows that the strongest predictors for decreasing recidivism and successful transition to post-release life for reentering community members are social capital and relational ties to family and community. The main proponent of these two indicators is their ability to communicate with and maintain relationships with family and community members while incarcerated. Ongoing, accessible communication allows for continued or growing ties, and thus better planning and support when someone is released. This includes plans for where someone will live, where they may apply for employment, transportation options, and how returning residents will reestablish parenting roles in the lives of their children.

Strong connections to home and community also decreases depression and anxiety for those on the inside. This, in turn, decreases reactive behavior and other disciplinary concerns that may occur. Additionally, those who are planning for release are able to come home with increased mental health outcomes and support.  This leads to healthier residents reentering our communities, ready to engage in the work of healing and beginning the rest of their lives post-incarceration.

Prioritizing Connecticut families and local economies over corporate profits. Rather than supporting CT families and promoting successful transition back to communities, current state policies for communication between prison and homes provides high profits to Securus Technologies, a national corporation based on the other side of the country. Securus Technologies seeps more than $12 million from the state of Connecticut annually. As families make the difficult choice to maintain relationship with loved ones over other necessary purchases, this is $12 million that is no longer available to support local economies. There is little doubt, especially in today’s economic environment, that this money could be better spent in our grocery stores, restaurants, repair and retails shops, etc, not siphoned off to board members and stockholders around the country. Additionally, the burden of these losing these profits to others is most impactful on Connecticut’s Black and Brown communities, which paid 87% of that $12 million prior to the pandemic.

Prioritizing Connecticut children. Connecticut’s children are also shouldering the burden the high cost of telecom services from our correctional facilities. Many families find that they cannot afford this cost, and children facing parental incarceration become more and more isolated from their parent during their sentence, leaving these children with fewer connections and degraded relationships with their caregivers. On average, children with incarcerated parents face a 60% chance themselves of future incarceration. Having stronger relationships with incarcerated parents can encourage more positive attachments and decrease reactive behaviors among children. We also know that children with incarcerated parents do better at school and at home when they are able to maintain strong relationships with parents during incarceration.

NASW-CT is in strong support of SB 972, which will create more accessible communication and stronger relationships between Connecticut families and their loved ones. Aside from profits to Securus Technology, there is little lost and much gained in the passing of this bill for Connecticut communities.

Thank you to the Committee Chairs Gary Winfield and Steve Stafstrom and all members of the Judiciary Committee for your time and attention on this legislation.

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