ASSEMBLY, No. 5195

STATE OF NEW JERSEY

220th LEGISLATURE

INTRODUCED FEBRUARY 16, 2023

 


 

Sponsored by:

Assemblyman† HERB CONAWAY, JR.

District 7 (Burlington)

Assemblyman† REGINALD W. ATKINS

District 20 (Union)

Assemblyman† STERLEY S. STANLEY

District 18 (Middlesex)

 

Co-Sponsored by:

Assemblymen Mukherji, Wimberly and Assemblywoman Quijano

 

 

 

 

SYNOPSIS

†††† Requires State and private correctional facilities to allow inmates to make telephone and video calls at no cost to inmate or other party.

 

CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT

†††† As introduced.

††


An Act concerning inmate communications at certain correctional facilities and amending P.L.2016, c.37.

 

†††† Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:

 

†††† 1.††† Section 2 of P.L.2016, c.37 (C.30:4-8.12) is amended to read as follows:

†††† 2. a. All telephone service contracts for inmates in [State or] county correctional facilities shall be subject to the procurement provisions set forth in [chapter 34 of Title 52 of the Revised Statutes and] chapter 11 of Title 40A of the New Jersey Statutes; provided, however, the [State Treasurer or] appropriate person on behalf of the county [or private correctional facility] shall contract with the qualified vendor whose rate shall not exceed 11 cents per minute for domestic debit, prepaid, and collect calls and who does not bill to any party any service charge or additional fee exceeding the per minute rate, including, but not limited to, any per call surcharge, account set up fee, bill statement fee, monthly account maintenance charge, or refund fee.

†††† b.††† A State, county, or private correctional facility shall not accept or receive a commission or impose a surcharge for telephone usage by inmates in addition to the charges imposed by the telephone service provider.† For the purposes of this section, "commission" means any form of monetary payment, in-kind payment requirement, gift, exchange of services or goods, fee, or technology allowance.† A commission or surcharge shall not include any product or the like that is related to the completion of voice-only calls, inmate telephone service maintenance, the analysis of telephone records and related financial data for investigative or other purposes, or security enhancements, including, but not limited to, voice recognition software, text analytics, or aggregate data analytical software.

†††† c.†††† Telephone services made available through a prepaid or collect call system established pursuant to section 3 of this act may include international calls; provided however, that if international calls are included in the telephone services made available for inmates, those calls shall be made available at reasonable rates subject to Federal Communications Commission rules and regulations, but not to exceed 25 cents per minute to inmate incarcerated in a county correctional facility.†

†††† d.[Telephone services made available through a prepaid or collect call system established pursuant to section 3 of this act may include international calls; provided however, that if] If international calls are included in the telephone services made available for inmates, those calls shall be made available[at reasonable rates subject to Federal Communications Commission rules and regulations, but not to exceed 25 cents per minute] at no charge to inmate incarcerated in a State or private correctional facility in accordance with subsection e. of this section.

†††† e.†††† The Commissioner of the Department of Corrections and the appropriate person on behalf of the private correctional facility shall allow every inmate incarcerated in a State or private correctional facility to make telephone and video calls with no charge imposed upon the inmate or the other party; provided, however, that all telephone service† contracts for inmates in State or private correctional facilities shall be subject to the procurement provision set forth in Chapter 34 of Title 52 of the Revised Statutes.

(cf: P.L.2016, c.37, s.2)

 

†††† 2.††† Section 3 of P.L.2016, c.37 (C.30:4-8.13) is amended to read as follows:

†††† 3. a. [The Department of Corrections, each] Each county correctional facility[, and each private correctional facility] shall make available either a prepaid or collect call system, or a combination thereof, for telephone services for inmates.

†††† b.††† Under a prepaid system, funds may be deposited into an inmate account in order to pay for telephone calls, provided that nothing in this section shall require the [department,] county[, or private correctional facility] to provide or administer a prepaid system.†

†††† c.†††† The provider of the inmate telephone service, as an additional means of payment, shall permit the recipient of inmate collect calls to establish an account with that provider in order to deposit funds for advance payment of those collect calls.†

†††† d.††† For the purposes of this section, a "collect call system" means a call system pursuant to which recipients are billed for the cost of an accepted telephone call initiated by an inmate.†

(cf: P.L.2016, c.37, s.3)

 

†††† 3. This act shall take effect on the first day of the 13th month following enactment. However, the Commissioner of Corrections may take such anticipating administrative action as necessary for the timely implementation of this act.

 

 

STATEMENT

 

†††† This bill requires the Commissioner of the Department of Corrections and the appropriate person on behalf of a private correctional facility to allow inmates incarcerated in State and private correctional facilities to make telephone and video calls with no charge imposed upon the inmate or the other party.

†††† Under current law, certain requirements are imposed upon telephone service contracts for inmates in State, county, and private correctional facilities, including the requirement that the rate for inmate telephone calls is not to exceed 11 cents per minute for domestic debit, prepaid, and collect calls.

†††† Under the provisions of this bill, inmates incarcerated in State and private correctional facilities would be permitted to make telephone or video calls with no charge imposed upon the inmate or the other party, including international calls; provided that the telephone service contracts that the facilities enter into still adhere to the State contracting and procurement laws.

†††† In the sponsorís view, the more incarcerated people stay in touch with their families, the better they do when they reenter society while those with weaker support systems due to lack of communication during incarceration, are more likely to re-offend. Some studies indicate that frequent and consistent family phone calls reduce recidivism and promote rehabilitation after release.

†††† The sponsor notes that some families go into debt in their attempt to maintain contact with incarcerated loved ones through phone calls and visitations. It is the sponsorís intent to reduce the enormous financial burden of inmate phone calls as the high cost of prison phone calls have sapped savings from low-income families trying to communicate with their loved ones.