By Bob Katzen
The House 132-26, (Senate on a voice vote without a roll call vote), approved and sent to Gov. Maura Healey a bill that beginning on December 1, 2023, would provide free phone calls and video calls for all prisoners in Massachusetts. Gov. Healey supports the bill and is expected to sign it soon.
The vote was mostly along party lines with all Republicans and one Democrat voting against the bill and all other Democrats voting for it.
Currently there is no legal requirement for free phone calls in correctional facilities. Each facility contracts separately for telephone service.
“The telephone is a lifeline for people locked in prisons and their families, but phone company profiteering and kickbacks to prisons, have made calls unaffordable,” said Aaron Steinberg, Communications Director of Prisoners’ Legal Services of Massachusetts. ‘This landmark law will allow for precious human contact between incarcerated people and their children and other loved ones. This will help families thrive and help incarcerated people succeed when they return to our communities.”
Steinberg continued, that under current law, “each facility contracts separately for telephone service and with current contracting provisions, facilities are given kickbacks called ‘site commissions,’ with little incentive to negotiate for the lowest rate”.
Despite repeated e-mails sent by Beacon Hill Roll Call asking the 27 Republicans and one Democrat why they voted against the bill, only Rep. Nick Boldyga (R-Southwick) responded.
“Every law abiding citizen that has a job and works 40 plus hours a week has to pay for phone calls,” said Boldyga. “Why are criminals entitled to free phone calls? It’s completely ridiculous and absurd that Democrats are giving free anything to criminals. Criminals and their families should be paying for their phone calls, not taxpayers. “
(A “Yes” vote is for the bill. A “No” vote is against it.)
Rep. Christine Barber Yes Rep. Mike Connolly Yes Rep. Paul Donato Yes Rep. Erika Uyterhoeven Yes