First of all, Justine, I am so grateful for this article. This is something I’ve been dealing with for a few years now, but because I was raised middle-class (as are most of my friends) having a parent in prison really isn’t something I can talk about. Thank you for raising awareness about this. (TL;DR - I have personal experience with the prison phone system and felt compelled to respond to Cakes. My dad is a prisoner, the calls are horrifically expensive, and making them cheaper is a wise social investment worthy of broad support). Cakes, I’d like to respond because before my dad was arrested I probably would have written a response just like you did. I was raised with a lot of support & guidance about right and wrong, as well as a lot of opportunities both educationally & socially. Literally no one in my immediate or extended network had ever had an interaction with the prison system, so I assumed that “those people” who ended up there deserved whatever happened to them. How could anyone remotely decent possibly find themselves in prison, I thought. And why should we law-abiding folk bother to make their lives any better. Both my parents went to college. My dad coached my little league team and my mom volunteered with the PTA. Life was grand. Flash forward to my mid-20s, and my father’s small business failed. Our home was in foreclosure (not blaming any banks here, this was straight up poor financial management), and he made the terrible decision to rob banks. He got caught, and was sentenced to almost 20 years in prison. Watching my father go through the system that I had thought was just for “those people” was brutal, terrifying, and humiliating. That said, he did what he did and got what he deserved. My mom decided not to divorce him, forgave him, and my family and I reconciled ourselves to going at least the next 15 years without him being physically with us (assuming he can get parole). What we didn’t realize was that to stay in touch with him would cost a fortune. We were all furious with him in our own way but none of us wanted to completely write off our dad. My mom had to move back into her parents’ house and it was on my brother and I to foot the bill for any phone calls my dad made to my mom (her parents, while they were still lucid before succumbing to Alzheimer’s, had no intention of forgiving him and wanted nothing to do with supporting him in any way. Which is of course their prerogative). We set up a basic $50/month plan to allow her to receive phone calls and get basic internet service from her bedroom. Our first phone bill was close to $300. At $15 per phone call, my dad making one call even just every other day was unsustainably expensive. My brother and I did what we could for the first 6-12 months while he needed to talk with my mom about his case before it was resolved, but we couldn’t keep that up. We now have it down to about one call a week, which is manageable, but we also have to accept that because our mom is the only one who takes his calls he only gets to talk with someone outside the prison system for a total of 60 minutes per month. And I know that makes us an awfully lucky prison family to be able to support a phone bill that still hovers around $100 per month. My dad committed crimes that require punishment. Families of prisoners get their own punishment, too, which is that prison changes people. My dad’s personality and ability to carry a conversation has already changed a lot for the worse and he’s only 1/3 done. If my dad wasn’t able to talk with my mom at least a few times a month, I know he’d be unrecognizable by his release date. If we actually believe that people can fully pay off their debt to society and should be able to reintegrate after their release (as I do), then we need to figure out how to allow prisoners to maintain a reasonable amount of contact with anyone on the outside who is still willing to love and support them - and who can remind them there are people waiting to help them find enough purpose in life to avoid repeating the terrible choices that landed them there (and inflicted harm on others) in the first place.