To the editor:

Reflecting on nearly 200 days of experience with seclusion, I ask you: Who would’ve you become if you were unable to connect with loved ones over the phone or through the internet? How would your sense of self alter knowing your family was rapidly evolving as you’re stuck, unable to reach them because the phone bill’s too high?

Evoked from answers to those questions and a multitude of moral obligations, the Massachusetts Legislature must bring bill S.2846 to the floor for a vote. Senate bill S.2846 gives incarcerated folks the ability to call and reach their loved ones for free, rather than be forced to pay rates that represent college funds to some families but pennies to the state’s $744 million Department of Corrections budget. In June, The Salem News ran a piece discussing jail’s soon-to-be offering of video calls for 18 cents a minute; although it failed to mention that Massachusetts families already spend $24 million a year on phone calls with loved ones who are incarcerated. Under current pandemic circumstances, families have to choose between staying connected and meeting basic needs.

As endless tourists pour into Salem for October and uncertainty looms, Senate President Karen Spilka holds the authority to bring bill S.2846 to the floor. While we can’t predict the suffering to come as a result of COVID-19, the power to end this unjust aspect of our criminal (in)justice system is definitive and sits in our hands. So please, make a call.

Brian Stanley

Salem

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