Governor Signs SB 1008 (Becker), the “Keep Families Connected Act,” Following Grassroots Push from Community Members and Senator Josh Becker
SACRAMENTO – People incarcerated in California state prisons, as well as those held in state and local juvenile detention facilities, will be able to make and receive phone calls free of charge beginning January 1, 2023, after SB 1008 (Becker) was signed into law Thursday night by Governor Gavin Newsom.
SB 1008, the “Keep Families Connected Act,” eliminates the onerous per-minute charges and connection fees that make it tremendously expensive for incarcerated men and women to stay in touch with their loved ones. Limited communication takes a devastating emotional toll on people outside and inside prison, where a strong support system is an important factor in successful re-entry to society.
“The ability to call your partner, children or friends to instantly share your joys or sadness is something most of us take for granted,” said Senator Josh Becker (D-Peninsula). “It’s well-documented that this contact makes everyone involved do better in life. However, for incarcerated people and their families, simple contact over a phone is tightly restricted, mainly due to the outrageous charges imposed to make a call.”
Nationwide, providing prison telecommunication services is a $1.4 billion industry and Worth Rises, a co-sponsor of SB 1008, estimates the industry’s exploitive fees cost California families $68.2 million every year. In many cases, the person incarcerated was the head of the household and the key earner. As a result, 1 in 3 families fall into debt trying to remain connected with a loved one in prison, and 87% of this burden falls on women, particularly women of color.
“Impacted family and community members and people who suffered from isolation while in our state prisons were instrumental in SB 1008’s success,” continued Becker. “At bill hearings in the Capitol, through letters and emails, and at public events many people hit hard by these fees shared they pain they’ve experienced and show why the ‘Keep Families Connected Act’ is desperately needed.”
SB 1008 was supported by more than 40 organizations, 600 people, and San Francisco Sheriff Paul Miyamoto. San Francisco was the first county in the nation to make phone calls in its jails free back in 2020.
California is the second state to make phone calls for people in its prisons and juvenile halls free following on the heels of Connecticut, where its law took effect in July 2022. The free phone call movement was started in New York City, which made phone calls in city jails free in 2018, and efforts are now underway to make phone calls for the incarcerated free in Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, and Virginia.
SB 1008 was approved by the Assembly on a 56-16 vote and by the Senate on a 27-7 vote. It will take effect on January 1, 2023.
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