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RSAT Forum > Monthly Discussion > March 2021: Affordable Communication Alternatives for Inmates and their Families View modes: 
gbondquinn - 4/12/2021 10:46:21 AM
March 2021: Affordable Communication Alternatives for Inmates and their Families
Question:  I work in a Midwest jail.  Inmates are charged more than $10 for a 15-minute call.  We know that inmates who are able to stay in touch with their families are less likely to return to jail, yet the high price of these calls make that too expensive. Families who need the money are going into debt to pay for calls that on the outside costs far less. I did some digging here and it turns out the jail gets a “commission” from the telecommunication provider that has the contract for the system, so it has little incentive to negotiate lower prices. Are there any alternatives we can inform RSAT participants about?

Answer #1: As you point out, the companies that operate jail and prison phone systems are monopolies so they can charge whatever the jail or prison negotiates.  The FCC has limited interstate calls from prisons and jails to a charge of no more than $0.21 per minute but as so far ruled it cannot limit in-state call rates. At least eleven state departments of corrections, recognizing what you say about the need to keep inmates connected to their families, do not charge inmates as do some jails.  Short of getting prison and jail officials to join these eleven states, there is a new non-profit company that, at least, provides free written communication for inmates families. Ameelio ( lets inmates’ families email Ameelio letters, games, art and photos for free.  The company then prints them out and sends them to the correctional institution, paying for the postage. In its first year of operation, Ameelio has sent over 290,609 letters, cards and photos free to inmates. In addition to sending letters, the family members can attach information on preparing for COVID upon release, job opportunities, etc. According to Ameelio, because the jail or prison know the letters are being sent by Ameelio, not directly by the family, screening of the letters is expedited.  The company was inspired by a college student who had friends who were incarcerated who was shocked at the cost of the calls. He got backers from the tech world and others and started the nonprofit.

Answer #2 (from Ameelio): In addition to free letters, as mentioned in the first response, Ameelio is launching our free calling platform in May 2021. We are launching in two DOC's, but we are also interested in serving jails. If you are interested in learning more, please email us at, and Ameelio would be happy to set up a demonstration for you, learn more about your situation, and help plan a way forward. Thanks!