If you’ve ever had a conversation with an imprisoned loved one over the phone, you’ve likely faced a predicament:
You know how important it is to stay in touch with them, but you also know how expensive such calls can be.
Fortunately, there are a number of ways you can keep the cost of staying in touch with your imprisoned loved one to a minimum while also ensuring you have ample time to chat when you’re both able to.
But before we dive into the ways in which you can save money on phone calls to prison, let’s take a look at what these calls could end up costing you if you’re not careful.
The Cost of Phone Calls to Prison
Receiving calls from prison can run up your phone bill much quicker than you’d think, for a number of reasons.
To begin with, prison phone providers often tack on surcharges to every call made by a prisoner. Regardless of whether these charges are per minute or per call, the rates are exorbitant. Unfortunately, efforts by the FCC to lower these fees have been challenged as recently as March 2016.
While avoiding payment altogether when making or receiving a prison phone call isn’t plausible, there are ways you can cut costs or otherwise monitor the amount of money you spend doing so. Keep the following ideas in mind before you make your next phone call to prison.
How to Save Money on Phone Calls to Prison
Though keeping in touch with your imprisoned loved one is incredibly important, you also need to be sure you can afford to do so. If you spend too much on a single phone call, you might end up being unable to speak to your loved one until you’ve figured out a more economic way to communicate.
The following services and strategies will help you get the most bang for your buck and save you the most cash when it comes to keeping in touch with an imprisoned friend or family member.
Create a Calling Schedule
Before your loved one is taken into custody (or during the first few weeks of their sentence), figure out the logistics of speaking over the phone with one another.
Find out from prison administration how often they’ll be able to make calls, and for how long they’ll be able to chat. Once you have this information, figure out what times work best for you each month, and do your best to stick to this schedule.
Also, look into how much these conversations will cost you (on a per-call or per-minute basis). While this alone won’t help you save money, it will allow you to anticipate monthly costs and budget your money accordingly.
By planning out your phone call schedule, you’ll know when your loved one will be available, as well as how long they’ll be able to chat. In turn, you’ll save time and money by making every moment you have on the phone with your loved one count.
Use a Calling Service
The cost of receiving phone calls from prison varies from facility to facility, so it’s easy to stumble into a situation in which you and your loved one end up spending much more than you need to (thinking you don’t have any other option).
Luckily, services such as Pigeonly Voice help you get the most economic rate possible when receiving calls from an inmate.
Here’s how these services work:
- You sign up for the service, paying a monthly subscription fee(Free trial available)
- The service provides you with a phone number that secures the lowest rate possible.
- Your loved one calls your designated number, and is connected to your landline or cell phone.
- You and your loved one are able to speak freely at the lowest rate available at your inmate’s facility.
By paying a monthly fee rather than per-minute or per-call, you avoid overage and other hidden fees that come with calling direct or collect.
Legitimate prison services like Pigeonly Voice work with institutions at the local, state, and federal level to ensure proper guidelines are met regarding telephone communications. This adds an extra layer of security to your phone calls as well, to ensure only those who are legally allowed to listen to your conversations (i.e., prison administration) are able to do so.
Depending on the facility, these calling services can save you anywhere from 50-80% on each phone call you make.
Use a Prepaid/Debit Account
Another way to keep the cost of speaking to your loved one to a minimum is to use a prepaid calling account or debit account.
Services such as Securus Inmate Debit and IC Solutions Debit Telephone Account allow you to deposit a specified amount into your account that will be used specifically for making phone calls from prison.
These services work in one of two ways:
One method allows you to deposit money into your loved one’s account. The inmate can then use this money to call whomever they’d like (as long as said party is on the list of approved individuals). This method acts more as a gift to your loved one, as they can use it to make phone calls to people other than yourself.
Using the other method, you remain in control of the funds and take responsibility for any payments that need be made. Of course, this method only accounts for calls between you and the inmate.
Since you’ll have deposited a specific amount into these accounts, you won’t have to worry about overcharges or hidden fees – you or your inmate will simply be disconnected if you run out of funds.
Use Other Forms of Communication
Aside from calling your incarcerated loved one over the telephone, you do have a few other ways of keeping in touch and letting them know you’re thinking about them.
Most institutions allow individuals on an approved list send inmates letters, cards, and possibly even photographs. Depending on your loved one’s circumstances, you may be able to communicate briefly via email – at least through an administrative proxy.
Depending on what you’re sending, you’ll incur costs such as shipping and handling, as well as any flat fee the institute may charge. Of course, you’ll have a good idea of how much these charges will be, so you’ll be able to avoid any exorbitant costs when sending correspondences.
While speaking either face-to-face or via telephone are definitely the most sought-after forms of communication between you and your imprisoned loved one, you should never overlook how valuable a written letter is to your inmate. As writing and sending such communication is a rather time-consuming process, doing so will show how much you care for and miss your loved one. And, if they’re allowed to keep the letter or card close by, they will always have a reminder of you close at hand.
When a friend or family member is imprisoned, it can be hard going days, weeks, or even months without hearing their voice. Unfortunately, the cost of calling them via telephone can be so expensive that doing so results in financial hardship for all involved.
If a loved one is sentenced to prison, take the time to consider your options for speaking to them via telephone whenever you possibly can. You still might not be able to speak with them as often as you’d like, but, when you can, you’ll at least be able to focus on the conversation itself, rather than how much the call is costing you.
Pigeonly can help you stay in touch with your loved ones in a number of ways. Check us out to see which options work best for you.