How to Accept Calls From Jail for Free

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Communication is the key to strengthening the ties between people far from each other. Strong buddies can become distant acquaintances without communication, and relationships can end. 

Having a loved one in prison is similar to having someone far from you, away in a place you can’t easily reach. Yet, you still desire to continually hold fast to your relationship ties, hoping that the strain of distance will not sever its thinning strands. 

Luckily, mass communication was invented, and you can use it to remain in contact with people practically anywhere in the world. So, if you have a family member, friend, or someone dear inside a prison cell, you can still contact them via phone. 

However, you may be wondering how inmate phone calls work. Also, you’d like to know how much it would cost if your incarcerated loved one called you from jail. 

This article will discuss how you can save money on phone calls with incarcerated loved ones using third-party vendors or Google Voice, a phone service available in select prison facilities. 

In addition, this write-up will teach you the different phone services that may help you save money when accepting calls from an inmate.

While phone calls in jails are privileges, some factors might affect inmates’ ability to call their loved ones. Some violations may cause them to lose this privilege.

Setting up a phone account for an inmate is not complicated if you have all the information you need: the inmate’s identification, location, and the preferred phone service provider allowed in the prison facility. 

You can get these pieces of information by visiting This website lets you get direct links to more than 7,000 correctional facilities in the United States, giving you access to contact information and inmate records

Inmate Telephone System

If you have a relative or friend in prison, communicating with them is necessary to help them recover and rehabilitate. 

Talking with incarcerated individuals helps them overcome the effects of being deprived of freedom and a lingering sense of regret, guilt, and remorse. The United States criminal justice system understands this need, so inmates continue to have access to prison phone calls. 

However, making phone calls to inmates can be difficult for some families due to the cost. For this reason, people find ways to save money on inmate phone calls while remaining in contact with their loved ones in jail.

How Do You Save Money on Prison and Jail Phone Calls?

It’s undeniable that phone calls to inmates aren’t cheap. You’ll need to regularly send funds to an inmate account if you want them to call you. However, for families that don’t have enough income to make ends meet, maintaining a phone account is out of the question. 

Yet, all is not lost. There are ways to save money on prison and jail calls. Here are some tips to continue communicating with people you love behind bars. 

How It Works

One way to save money on inmate phone calls is to use a third-party vendor that provides prepaid calling accounts. 

However, each correctional facility has its preferred network provider. You should contact the prison authorities to know what service they’re doing transactions with.

The popular prepaid providers are the following:

  • Securus 
  • GTL (Global Tel Link)
  • IC Solutions
  • ConnectNetwork

Another way to save money on inmate phone calls is to use Google Voice, a free alternative to communicating with another person through the internet. 

You can use Google Voice on your cell phone, which you can access anywhere if you have a good and stable internet connection.

Using third-party vendors and Google Voice allows you to drop your monthly phone bills to manageable levels. However, despite these money-saving tips, there’s a caveat, especially with Google Voice. 

How do You Do It?

Google Voice is a free voice messaging feature using your Google account. Google Voice may be the only way for an inmate to make a call from jail for free. Unfortunately, most jails don’t allow cell phones.

However, if Google Voice is allowed in the facility where your prospective caller is housed, setting it up is easy. 

You and an inmate should have Google accounts so that you can sign up with a number in an inmate’s approved list.  

With Google Voice, anyone in the U.S. can call anyone in the United States or Canada for free. Still, inmates can only call those included in a pre-approved list of numbers, meaning an inmate can’t call you if your number is not on their list. 

So, if you register a phone number in your Google Voice account, make sure that’s a number in your loved one’s approved list. 

Collect Calls From Jail

There are many ways to pay for inmate calls. One of the most convenient is using a collect call. Inmates in jail can simply call any telephone number in their approved list and have the recipient pay for the time spent during the call. 

What’s a Collect Call?

A collect call is a way to pay for an inmate’s phone call. However, this type of payment is only available for landlines. Cell phones and mobile network providers have yet to allow “collect calls.”

In most cases, jails offer “collect calls” as a primary payment method for inmate calls. However, these calls are a bit pricier than regular calls. 

Why Are Calls From Jail Always Collect Calls?

Jails and prisons prefer collect calls because of two main reasons. First is that the correctional facility doesn’t want to pay for the call, and second, inmates don’t have phone access unless allowed. Because of these two reasons, most correctional facilities work with phone companies to provide “collect call” services for inmate telephone calls.

Accepting Collect Calls

When accepting collect calls, you can just take an incoming call, which will be charged to your phone bill. 

However, if you don’t want to pay for the account or have you contacted by the inmate, you can write or inform the facility to add you to the not-to-call persons.

Rates for Receiving Inmate Calls

The rates for receiving inmate calls are now relatively under control, thanks to the efforts of agencies like the FCC (Federal Communications Commission). 

Now the call charge per minute is $0.21 per minute for prepaid calls and $0.25 per minute for collect calls. However, these FFC rate caps only apply to interstate long-distance calls. 


You must remember that in-state call rates still depend on the rates set by phone providers for prepaid and collected calls in county jails and state prisons. Call policies may differ for each prison.

You should communicate with your local prison authorities about phone calls and how you can make the most out of each minute when on a call with your loved ones in prison. 

Are There Multiple Payment Options Available for Inmate Telephone Service?

Aside from collect call service for inmate calls, where the recipient of a call pays for the duration of the call, other payment options are available. 

Here are some services approved by the Bureau of Prisons and Department of Corrections in the United States.  

Calling Card Option

You can get these calling cards from your local grocery store. You can put $1 to $20 on these cards and use them whenever an inmate calls you. It will help you manage the finances you set aside for inmate phone calls and save money. 

The Google Voice Option

Google Voice is a cost-effective way to save money for calling but not for people in jail. Google Voice needs a Google account, internet, and cell phone, which most prisons won’t allow.

The Google Voice service may be a tempting alternative to save money on inmate calls. However, it isn’t the best option for inmates. 

How Do You Use Google Voice for Inmate Calls?

For you to use Google Voice, you need a Google account. You must sign up with the Google Voice service with a phone number. However, you can’t do this for your loved one behind bars. So, it won’t be a viable solution to use Google Voice. 

FCC Prison Calls Regulation

The problem with Google Voice is that most telephone providers working with the prison facility block calls to a Google Voice number. If the prison facility doesn’t allow communications outside a specific phone provider, then Google Voice is out of the question. 

Here Is the Quote From the Federal Bureau of Prisons, “Inmate Telephone Regulations”

The Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) states that most state prisons prohibit and even block phone calls from forwarded telephone numbers. This prohibition aims to prevent illegal activities and abusive calls made by inmates. 

Google Voice uses cell-forwarding technology, automatically blocked by a state prison adhering to this FCC regulation. Thus, the FCC ends its quote with a short yet sharp phrase, “Be smart. Don’t do it.” 

Reasons That Google Voice Won’t Work for Prison Calls

  • Google Voice can’t receive collect calls nor pay a calling party’s call.
  • Google isn’t working or involved in any correctional institution’s phone system.
  • Google Voice can’t receive calls coming from inmates in prison. Also, telephone systems in prison facilities don’t allow inmates to use Google Voice to call people outside prison.
  • Google Voice doesn’t work with inmate telephone providers.

Inmate Debit Calling

Inmate debit calling is a feature you can purchase that allows an inmate to call you or any telephone number. However, this service depends on whether the prison facility will allow it. 

It’s advisable to use prepaid debit calling when purchasing this service. 

You can buy an amount of credit via the prison’s commissary, which the inmate can use to call numbers listed on the prepaid debit account. 

What About Call Apps?

Call apps rely heavily on the use of gadgets or smartphones. Some facilities allow inmates to have tablets or use smartphones during calls. However, it’s not the case in most prison facilities. 

It’s best to talk with the prison authorities about whether you can communicate with your incarcerated loved one through a calling app. 

Be Aware of Scams

Saving money is essential nowadays, especially with the fluctuating economy and teetering job security of many people in America. However, people accept desperate measures because of desperate times, making them prone to scams. 

Even though an offer’s enticing, you should always take it with a grain of salt. Remember that if it’s too good to be true, don’t trust it. Do your research.

Call Information

Your call information should always be safe and secure, especially when using third-party providers. You can permanently deny a call and have the right not to answer a collect call. 

What Might Affect an Inmate’s Ability to Make Calls From Jail?

Reasons that might affect an inmate’s ability to call from prison or jail include the following: 

  1. The intake process for an inmate is not yet completed.
  2. The prison encountered a lockdown due to security reasons.
  3. The inmate’s phone account is insufficient to complete a call.
  4. The phone call privilege is momentarily revoked due to an inmate’s bad behavior.
  5. The inmate’s approved phone number list doesn’t include a specific person.
  6. The inmate forgot a family member’s or a friend’s number.
  7. The prison facility encountered connection troubles due to bad weather.

      Prohibited Calls

      An inmate is not free to call anyone they like. Inmates can only call numbers listed in an approved phone number list. However, an inmate can’t list anyone’s number on an approved list. 

      There are people that an inmate just can’t call. Note that states may vary in their definition of prohibited calls. 

      Here’s New York State’s list of prohibited calls from specific individuals: 

      • A former or present employee of the following offices and their families:
        State’s Department of Corrections
        Community Supervision
        State’s Division of Parole
        Federal, state, and local criminal justice agencies
      • Jurors involved in the conviction and their families
      • Judges involved in the conviction and their families
      • Criminal partners
      • An inmate’s victim and their immediate family
      • Persons prohibited by a court order to communicate with the inmate


      1. Why won’t my phone let me accept calls from jail

      A setting on your phone may prevent incoming calls, or your number isn’t included in your incarcerated loved one’s approved list of phone numbers. 

      2. How do I unblock jail calls on my iPhone?

      You can go to Settings > Phone > Call Blocking and Identification> Edit > Choose the number you wish to unblock and click “unblock.”


      1. Telephone Service for Incarcerated Individuals
      2. Telephone Calls

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