Ontario looking to change jail phone call system, include calls to cellphones

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Ontario says it is working toward a new telephone system for provincial jails that would allow inmates to call cellphones.

Currently they are only able to place collect calls to landlines.

Critics and inmate advocates say that is an absurd restriction in the year 2020, and that high rates for the calls are another barrier.

Lawyer Michael Spratt says it can be about $1 per minute, and families sometimes can't afford those charges when they start adding up.

He says it's an unfair and overly punitive system that restricts inmates' ability to maintain employment, housing and counselling connections while incarcerated, making it harder for them to reintegrate into society when they're released.

Kristy Denette, a spokeswoman for the Ministry of the Solicitor General, says the government is working on a procurement process for a new, modern inmate phone system that will include calls to cellphones and international numbers.

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