Penal Telecommunications Transparency and Accountability Advances

Bill would gather data around penal telecommunications service providers and limit the costs of phone calls for inmates and their families

DENVER, CO– The House Judiciary Committee today advanced Representative Kerry Tipper and Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez’s bill to increase transparency and accountability in telecommunication costs for incarcerated individuals in Colorado. The bill would instruct the Public Utilities Commission to gather and report data on penal telecommunications providers and establish a maximum per-minute rate for phone calls in jails and prisons. The bill passed committee by a vote of 9-2.

“Affordable phone calls mean incarcerated people can more easily access the legal resources and support networks they need to serve out their sentences and more smoothly reintegrate into their communities upon release,” said Rep. Tipper, D-Lakewood. “Increasing transparency and regulating the exorbitant fees that are wrapped into the prices of these calls will massively improve the wellbeing of both incarcerated individuals and their families on the outside. This bill is a rational, sensible, and humane step forward for Colorado.”

“Phone calls are a lifeline for incarcerated individuals, and we shouldn’t be profiting off of their contact with the outside world,” said Rep. Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez, D-Denver. “Studies have shown that being in touch with loved ones reduces recidivism. Given Colorado’s high recidivism rate and the Department of Corrections’ stated goal of reducing it, we should be removing barriers to communication, not making it harder for families to stay in touch. This bill would bring much-needed transparency to begin the process of rooting out profits in our criminal justice system.”

HB21-1201 would require telecommunications providers that service correctional facilities to track and maintain data related to the services they provide and report it to the Public Utilities Commission (PUC). The PUC would then be in charge of making the information public and ensuring accountability and transparency surrounding the providers’ practices. Finally, the PUC would also be charged with establishing a maximum per-minute rate for phone calls placed by incarcerated individuals.