Maintaining communication with loved ones behind bars is crucial. Your continued show of care can be what they need to return to a better life. Many people share this sentiment that their support can somehow affect the lives of a person behind bars.
More than 200,000 inmate phone calls are made daily, a statistic shared by the Bureau of Prisons in its attempt to cater to the demand of connecting loved ones divided by cold prison bars. Thousands of people try their best to keep in contact with people deprived of liberty to make a change in their lives.
If you have someone you care about in prison, do your best to maintain contact with them.
You may have questions like how inmate calls work, how much they cost, and if there are ways to lessen the cost or even allow prisoners calls for free. Also, how can a family member help set up a phone call account for relatives behind bars?
This article will help families and friends find ways to continue communicating with relatives behind bars.
This write-up will also discuss the viability of using Google Voice for inmate calls and whether it’s an alternative to most prison facilities’ regular phone call system.
Finally, you’ll get how-tos and tips regarding accepting collect calls and setting up and funding phone accounts for your loved one behind bars.
Maintaining communication with family members behind bars is crucial if you want to help in their rehabilitation. The love and support of a caring person are magnified during difficult times. If one can love someone at their lowest, how much more at their high point in life?
LookUpInmate.org is an accessible inmate and facility locator with a database of more than 7,000 prisons and jails in the United States (U.S.).
You can remain connected with an inmate by setting up a phone account to call their correctional facility. You can open an account by getting the inmate’s ID number and facility location through this website.
How the Calls Work
You can accept incoming calls from prisons or jails but can’t take calls for free. If you want to talk to inmates over the phone, you’ll have to pay the phone companies for their service.
Calls made from prison work differently from regular calls to contacts outside the jail. Inmates are restricted from using telephone systems inside prisons, making it hard for anyone to talk to them.
You’ll need to cooperate with the prison facility to know the best time to receive calls and the options to remain in touch with a loved one behind bars.
Collect Calls From Jail
You can pay for inmate calls in many ways. A convenient way to pay is through an inmate’s collect call. Your loved one behind bars will be the one to dial your telephone number, but you’ll pay the cost of the call’s duration.
It’s such an easy setup that most jails and prisons in the United States prefer using “call collect services” as a primary payment method for phone service providers.
What’s a Collect Call?
A collect call is a way to make receivers pay for an inmate’s phone call. However, this payment method is only available for landlines. Cellphones, mobile devices, and telecommunication providers have yet to allow “collect calls” in their mobile systems.
Collect calls can be more accessible for inmates without a phone account or if their families don’t have the money to pay for prepaid inmate telephone calls in county jails and state prisons.
An inmate can request a phone call from the prison authorities, dial an approved contact number, and have their family pay for the call. And though these calls may have hefty rates, the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) has started to regulate phone call charges billed by telephone companies.
Can You Accept a Collect Call on Your Cellphone?
Presently, phone systems inside correctional facilities and the services from phone providers don’t support “collect calls” to cell phones. You can accept landline calls, but not on mobile devices or smartphones.
Why Are Calls From Jail Always Collect Calls?
The jails’ preference for calling collect is a byproduct of the standard system used in most correctional facilities before telephone network providers came into the picture.
Jails and prisons want to ensure that the facility does not carry calls made by inmates. Collect calls help ensure that the inmate’s immediate family members shoulder the call and other fees.
As such, correctional facilities have begun partnering with telephone companies to improve the collect call system further.
However, with the introduction of prepaid calling and inmate phone call accounts with accessible payment methods, the collect call system is now becoming another accessible option.
Accepting Collect Calls
When you answer a collect call, you can accept it, and the cost will reflect on your next phone bill. However, you can reject a collect call and deny a phone number from contacting you. You can then inform the correctional facility to remove your number from the approved list to prevent further unwanted calls.
However, aside from accepting collect calls, you can pay inmate calls through other available methods like the following:
Calling Card Option
You can visit your grocery or convenience store and get one of these calling cards you can put money on, usually $1 to $20. You can use this prepaid calling card when an inmate calls you and pay call charges through this card.
The Google Voice Option
Some people try to use Google Voice to save money on phone calls. However, choosing Google Voice dramatically limits how you connect with the person on the other end of the line.
Most prisons and jails don’t allow inmates to have smartphones, tablets, and access to the internet. You should contact the prison authorities where your loved one is incarcerated to see if Google Voice is an option.
Inmate Debit Calling
You can pay a prepaid account through an inmate’s commissary account and get a debit calling account. Through this type of account, an inmate can call pre-approved telephone numbers.
You can also check with your local correctional facility offices to see if they have this calling option.
Collect Calls With AT&T
AT&T is one of the few providers that allow “call collect” to cell phones, but the process isn’t straightforward.
An inmate must first call an AT&T hotline (1-800-CALL-ATT), choose to collect via wireless option then enter a 10-digit wireless number to connect. This process may be too complicated for an inmate with limited call time.
Third-Party Collect Calls
Most U.S. mobile phone carriers don’t accept or don’t have collect call services.
People outside of prison can choose a third-party collect call option.
A third-party call is when a person calls a number, but another telephone account is billed. However, prison facilities like those in South Dakota don’t allow third-party calling. A workaround for the cost of a collect call is for family members to agree to share the bills of an inmate phone call.
What About Call Apps?
Calling applications rely on gadgets and smartphones, which inmates may not have. Some facilities may provide these gadgets to inmates, but most don’t.
If you plan to use call apps to communicate with inmates, the best thing to do is talk to the prison authorities. See if the facility has options that allow inmates to have gadgets and limited internet use.
Google Voice Free Number for Inmates
Some families with incarcerated loved ones may be economically challenged, which makes inmate calls a bit expensive.
So it’s understandable how some people are looking for ways to talk to inmates for free. Some think Google Voice is the answer.
Before creating a Google Voice account, here are some things to consider regarding this Google feature:
How Do You Use Google Voice for Inmate Calls?
You and an inmate must have a verified Google account to make this work. You’ll use your Google account to sign up for Google Voice.
Suppose you do plan to go through with Google Voice inmate calling. In that case, you should use a phone number in an inmate’s approved list for verification.
However, correctional facilities are known to block transfer services like Google Voice for security purposes. Check if the facility where your loved one is incarcerated allows calls through Google Voice.
FCC Prison Calls Regulation
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) also states that the issue with Google Voice is that most telephone providers tend to block Google Voice numbers.
You can’t use this Google feature if the facility phone carrier doesn’t allow cell-forwarding technology, which is the foundation of the Google Voice service.
Here Is the Quote From the Federal Bureau of Prisons, “Inmate Telephone Regulations.”
The Federal Bureau of Prisons states that most prisons don’t allow phone calls from forwarded telephone numbers. This prohibition aims to prevent illegal activities and abusive calls made by inmates.
Google Voice uses call-forwarding technology, which is automatically blocked by a state prison in adherence to this FCC regulation. The BOP ends its quote with a warning, “Be smart. Don’t do it.”
Reasons That Google Voice Won’t Work for Prison Calls
Here are some reasons why Google Voice won’t work for inmate calls:
- Google Voice can’t receive collect calls nor pay a calling party’s call
- Google Voice can’t receive calls coming from prison
- Google Voice doesn’t work with inmate telephone providers
- Google isn’t part of any correctional institution’s phone system
How to Call an Inmate for the First Time: Setting Up a Telephone Account
The first thing needed to set up a telephone account is to sign up with one of the phone providers working with the correctional facility. Some of the major companies working with the criminal justice system are the following:
- GTL (Global Tel Link)
You’ll have to set up an account that your loved one can use in prison to make calls.
Intake and Classification
After a person’s incarceration, the correctional facility will book the prisoner and place them in their recommended classification. An inmate’s ability to call you may depend on their classification.
Inmate classification is part of the methods used by correctional facilities to determine an inmate’s overall prison experience. Classification may influence the type of housing they are placed in and the privileges that they are given. The ultimate goal of classification is to determine risk levels of possible violence and recidivist behavior.
What Might Affect an Inmate’s Ability to Make Calls From Jail?
Here are some reasons that might affect an inmate’s ability to call from prison or jail:
- The intake process for an inmate is not yet completed
- The prison encountered a lockdown due to security reasons
- The inmate forgot a family member’s or a friend’s number
- The prison facility encountered connection troubles due to bad weather
- The inmate’s phone account is insufficient to complete a call
- The phone call privilege is momentarily revoked due to an inmate’s unacceptable behavior
- The inmate’s approved phone number list doesn’t include a specific person
Becoming Eligible to Receive Calls
In most correctional facilities, you can only become eligible to receive calls once your number has been included in the approved lists submitted by an inmate. This situation may pose problems as inmates may not fully remember all the telephone numbers in their mobile phones, which were confiscated upon arrest.
You can lessen this problem by quickly logging into an accessible inmate and facility locator to know the location of your loved one who’s been incarcerated. You can then schedule a visit to your loved one to give them your number.
Rates for Receiving Inmate Calls
The rates for receiving inmate calls are regulated by agencies like the FCC (Federal Communications Commission).
The FCC (Federal Communications Commission) states that the call charge per minute is $0.21 per minute for prepaid or debit calls and $0.25 per minute for collect calls. However, one caveat is that these FCC rate caps only apply to interstate long-distance calls.
Correctional facilities have different preferred third-party phone call vendors. As such, each facility may have varying inmate-calling policies that you must follow. It’s best to check with the correctional facility first on what service provider they’ve partnered with.
You can do this by visiting LookUpInmate.org and getting the contact information of the facility where your loved one is incarcerated.
Finally, you should communicate with your local prison authorities about phone calls and how to make the most of each pay per minute call with your loved ones.
How to Cut the Cost of Calls From Jail
You can cut the cost of inmate calls from prison or jail by doing the following:
- Contact the preferred inmate phone call vendor of the correctional facility for information about call rates and possible promotions
- Ensure that you have a telephone number that’s within the local area of the facility to take advantage of local call rates
- Talk with family members to share the cost of calls
- Manage call time by making the most of each session
You need to be practical sometimes if you want to cut on phone call charges. The good news is that U.S. President Biden’s administration is pushing to reduce inmate call rates to accommodate economically challenged families better.
Why Won’t This Phone Accept Calls From Jail?
One main reason mobile phones don’t receive calls from jail is that cell phones don’t accept collect calls. You may need to find other options for an inmate call, get access to landlines, or add funds to an inmate’s telephone account to pay for calls that are not collected.
How Do You Unblock Jail Calls on My iPhone?
You can unblock a jail call on your iPhone by unblocking the number in your phone settings. Just follow these steps:
Go to: Settings > Phone > Call Blocking and Identification > Edit > (choose the number you wish to unblock and click “Unblock”)
How Do You Put Money on a Phone to Talk to an Inmate?
You can deposit your hard-earned money into an inmate’s commissary account to fund their phone call expenses. You can do this through phone providers partnering with prison facilities. Send money through deposits, credit cards, and money orders.
- OIG REVIEW OF INMATE TELEPHONE ABUSE
- Telephone Service for Incarcerated Individuals
- Telephone Calls
- Biden signs bill aiming to ease costs for prison calls
- Collect and Third-Party Calls
- Inmate Telephone/Messaging Access
- Providing Relief for the Families of Inmates From the High Cost of Staying in Touch