Ypsilanti City Council voted unanimously to pass a resolution urging the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners to provide free phone calls for all Washtenaw County inmates on Oct. 19.
The resolution was proposed due to the high costs of telephone calls between inmates at Washtenaw County Jail and their families outside of the facility.
The correctional telecom sector business annually generates $1.4 billion in revenue, according to the resolution. The price of phone calls from correctional facilities are being driven higher due to the wealth gap between minority groups and white individuals.
Connecting with loved ones while incarcerated can reduce the rates of recidivism, according to the resolution.
“Our criminal justice system needs much reform, and any steps to remedy its ills or reduce its negative effects are important to take,“ Ypsilanti City Councilperson Brian Jones-Chance, said. "Providing access to free calls is a small measure that the county could take to address the disproportionate impacts of an imperfect system on the Black and Latino populations as well as the poor.”
The resolution is currently being directed to the Ypsilanti City Clerk to be provided to the Washtenaw Board of Commissioners.
“It is important that the city request the County Board of Commissioners to take up the issue of free calls for those incarcerated in county facilities,“ Jones-Chance said.
Studies by the Vera Institute and the Urban Institute have pointed toward a positive connection between family communication and re-entry success after incarceration. Expensive phone calls have been shown to disproportionately reduce the odds of success for poorer inmates, mainly minorities.
“To the extent that citizens of Ypsilanti are represented in the county jail system, I expect some small positive effects in the future, should the Board of Commissioners take this up,“ Jones-Chance said.
Should the resolution be taken up by the Board of Commissioners, Ypsilanti City Councilperson Anthony Morgan said he hopes the resolution will make it easier for inmates to connect with their families.
“Hopefully in the future, crime will decrease and inmates behind bars will be able to contact their families at no cost," Morgan said. "This will ensure that even though their terms are served that they are still able to reach out to their families for support and assistance.”