FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) – Starting on January 1, 2023, phone and audio calls made from standard institution wall phones and tablets by an incarcerated person in a California state prison will be free of charge to the incarcerated person and their friends and families, according to an announcement announced the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) on Friday.

The change is in response to the passing of Senate Bill 1008, the Keep Families Connected Act, which was signed into law Thursday night by Governor Gavin Newsom. Other than institution-set hours of operation for calling times and the 15-minute per-call time limit, there is no cap on the number of free audio calls that incarcerated people can make. Calls can be made domestically or internationally from the standard institutional wall phones, as well as tablets where available.

“CDCR is fully committed to maintaining positive bonds between incarcerated people and their loved ones. Making audio calls free removes the financial barriers and burdens to the population and their support system, we hope this will have a positive impact on the rehabilitative process.”

Jeff Macomber, CDCR Secretary

People receiving calls will still be notified prior to accepting the call that communication is coming from an incarcerated person and asking them to indicate whether they want to accept the call or not. All calls will continue to be recorded as usual.

Nationwide, providing prison telecommunication services is a $1.4 billion industry that is estimated to cost California families $68.2 million every year.

“The ability to call your partner, children or friends to instantly share your joys or sadness is something most of us take for granted. 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.”

Josh Becker, Senator D-Peninsula

CDCR’s current communications service provider, ViaPath Technologies (VPT), will continue to provide services. People receiving the calls will still need to have an active ConnectNetwork Advance Pay account with VPT. Those without an account and would like to set one up or those with existing funds in their account that would like a refund should call VPT customer service at (866) 607-6006.

California is the second state to make phone calls for people incarcerated free following a similar move by lawmakers in Connecticut.