MASS. - In Massachusetts, the 14 sheriffs across the state have agreed to provide a minimum of 10 free minutes of phone calls per week for each inmate.
Additionally, the sheriffs unanimously decided to reduce the cost of phone calls to no more than 14 cents a minute.
Hampden County Sheriff Nick Cocchi, also the vice president of the Mass Sheriff's Association, says it’s been a priority over the last few years to maintain and increase the connection between those who are incarcerated and their families.
All of the money generated from phone calls goes back into programs benefiting the inmates. For example, in Hampden County, the money made through the phone system goes back into inmate programming and the subsidization of the Stonybrook Express bus line, which helps with visitation and discharging inmates.
Cocchi says allowing those who are incarcerated 10 free minutes to check in with their families each week was the right thing to do to help prepare them for re-entering society.
"Our goal is to work with our offenders and getting them ready to go back into the community," Cocchi said. "The fact that they can start to rebuild family reunification pieces and go back as the mother, father, sister, brother, husband, or wife that they need to be, and want to be, I think it is critical."
In Hampden County, Cocchi allowed two free hours of phone time for incarcerated individuals, a measure which started in March 2020 during the coronavirus pandemic. Everyone in their care and custody also has the ability to request a free video visit with family. The Hamdepn County Sheriff's Office currently charges 12 cents per minute for inmate phone calls, which is the lowest rate in jails across the Commonwealth.
Cocchi said he is happy to work with the other sheriffs across the state to come up with solutions and help strengthen the bond between justice-involved individuals and their families. The statewide program will go into effect no later than August 1.