This Mother’s Day take action to ensure that families can stay connected to their loved ones behind bars.
Send a message to Sylvia Jones, Solicitor General, and Bell Canada using our simple e-mail tool:
Video by Nadine MacKinnon.
The prison phone systems in Ontario and Canada jeopardize the wellbeing of prisoners and their families by putting up barriers to communication. For many prisoners and their families in Ontario, phone calls are limited to 20-minutes and cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars per month. Calls cannot be made to switchboards, and until recently, could only be made to people with landlines who could accept collect calls. Without family and community support, this can result in isolation, disconnection, poverty, mental health challenges, and suicide – and creates barriers for community reintegration upon release.
After two years of community action, the Ministry of the Solicitor General announced their intentions for a new prison phone contract to begin in June 2020. While the new contract will allow for calls to cellphones, they have not addressed expensive collect calls, the 20-minute cap on calls, and the unjustified ban on calls to switchboards.
In response to COVID-19, the Ministry has provided prisoners with 50 local calls or 52-minutes of long-distance calling per month–this does not go far enough. For many prisoners caged in institutions far from their home community, this means that they will only be able to make two free long-distance calls per month. This also indicates that the infrastructure necessary to provide free and direct telecommunication services to people behind bars was already in place.
Bell Canada has not responded to our concerns about their exploitative monopoly over the prison phone system in Ontario and Canada. While Bell acts like a champion of mental health, they jeopardize the wellbeing of prisoners and their families by putting up barriers to communication.
Since 2013, Bell has paid the province of Ontario a commission for prison phone calls – and they continue to profit off of marginalized communities.
As the primary provider of prison phone services in Canada, we urge Bell to take corporate responsibility and make phone calls for prisoners free during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.