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What Times Can Prisoners Make Phone Calls?

Phone privileges vary across different prisons, but generally inmates have limited windows of time when they can access phones and call outside contacts. Understanding prison phone rules provides insight into inmates’ connectivity with the outside world.

Typical Phone Access Times

Phone access policies differ across federal prisons, state prisons, jails, and detention centers. But some examples of common phone usage times include:

  • 5-10 minutes in morning before breakfast
  • 30-60 minutes after lunch
  • 5-10 minutes in evening before lights out
  • Occasional extra time on weekends and holidays

Calls are generally capped at 15 minutes per session. Usage is tightly controlled and monitored.

Certain groups like maximum security inmates may face further restrictions, while minimum security prisons allow more flexibility. Phone access depends on an inmate’s security classification, behavior, and privileges status.

Phone Locations Within Prisons

Inmates cannot make calls from their cells. Phones are located in specific common areas:

  • Shared inmate living spaces
  • Recreation yards
  • Day rooms
  • Hallways near guard desk
  • Commissary or meal areas

This offers some privacy but conversations can still be overheard. Calls made in public often cannot discuss sensitive matters.

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Call Restrictions and Monitoring

Prison phone use comes with major restrictions:

  • Approved Contacts List – Inmates can only call people on their approved visitor list. These are screened by the prison.
  • Monitored Calls – All conversations are recorded and reviewed by guards for security.
  • Call Time Limits – Each call is capped at 15 minutes to allow others to use the phones.
  • No 3-Way Calls – Third parties cannot be conferenced in due to security concerns.

Violating phone rules can result in loss of privileges. This limits inmates’ communication.

Signing Up for Phone Access

To use the prison phones, inmates must register authorized outside contacts:

  1. Submit list of requested numbers to prison staff
  2. Staff vet each number and add approved contacts
  3. Create authorized phone list for that inmate
  4. Issue inmate a pin number to access the phones

Adding or changing contacts requires this approval process again.

Phone Call Costs

Prison phone calls are expensive, with charges well above normal phone rates:

  • Connection fee of $3-$5 to initiate call
  • Per minute fees of $0.15-$0.25 during call
  • No free calls or pre-paid phone cards allowed
  • Collect calls reversed to recipient’s phone bill

These high costs place a burden on inmates’ friends and family receiving calls. Some correctional facilities receive kickbacks on call profits.

Smartphone Apps for Scheduling Calls

Some new smartphone apps like Secures and GTL Connect Network allow approved contacts to schedule calls with inmates online. This brings some added convenience within prison phone constraints.

Benefits include:

  • Schedule calls for permitted time slots
  • Get call alerts
  • Reduce overlap with other callers
  • Avoid missing calls from irregular access times
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But the call restrictions and monitoring still apply. Smartphone access does not equal more communication.

Impact of Restricted Phone Access

Limited phone time and privacy take a psychological toll:

  • Difficult for inmates to maintain family bonds, especially with kids
  • Isolation from support system worsens mental health
  • Reduces chances of successful rehabilitation and re-entry
  • Loss of access to information about current events in society

Phone calls remain a lifeline to the outside world. Communication and family ties improve outcomes post-release. Expanding and improving phone access could benefit inmates and communities.


Prison phone use is extremely controlled, monitored, and limited to short windows throughout the day. While maintaining security is a priority, phone access provides a key connection to outside support and ultimately improves rehabilitation. As technology evolves, prisons should reassess phone policies to foster inmates’ family bonds and mental health. Communication and rehabilitation are not mutually exclusive with safety.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can inmates make calls whenever they want?

No, prisons tightly control when phones can be used, generally allowing 15 minute windows a few times throughout the day. Inmates have little flexibility or choice when calling.

Are inmates completely cut off from communication when not on phones?

Some alternatives exist like letters, in-person visits, and video calls, but each has major restrictions too. Phones serve as the primary direct communication conduit.

Can inmates call cell phones or just landlines?

It depends on the prison, but most now allow calling registered cell phones within the approved contacts list. But the per minute costs are still prohibitive.

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Are prisons making phone access easier as technology improves?

While video calling is sometimes offered, most facilities maintain tightly limited phone time slots regardless of new technology. Communication remains constrained by financial incentives and security concerns.

Prison Inside Team

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Welcome to ‘Prison Inside,’ a blog dedicated to shedding light on the often hidden and misunderstood world within correctional facilities. Through firsthand accounts, personal narratives, and insightful reflections, we delve into the lives of those who find themselves behind bars, offering a unique perspective on the challenges, triumphs, and transformations that unfold within the confines of these walls.

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