The True Cost of Prison Phone Calls


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By The Atlantic and WNYC Studios, The Atlantic, and WNYC Studios. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.

Ashley C. Ford was just a baby when her father was sentenced to 30 years behind bars. Prison phone calls—a $1.4 billion industry in the United States—were often prohibitively expensive for her family, so Ford maintained a fragmentary relationship with him through handwritten letters and short visits, while her loved ones tried to shield her from her father’s past. With limited contact and unanswered questions, Ford filled in the blanks with fantasies of her father as the perfect man. This week on The Experiment, the Atlantic staff writer Clint Smith speaks with Ford about what children lose when a parent is in prison—and what happened when she discovered the truth of her father’s crime.

Further reading: “The Lines of Connection,”The Financial Toll of Mass Incarceration on American Families,” “Restoring Pell Grants—And Possibilities—for Prisoners”

A transcript of this is available.

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This episode was produced by Gabrielle Berbey and Peter Bresnan, with reporting by Clint Smith. Editing by Katherine Wells, Jenny Lawton, and Julia Longoria. Fact-check by Michelle Ciarrocca. Sound design by David Herman, with additional engineering by Joe Plourde. Transcription by Caleb Codding.

Music by Nelson Bandela (“Auddi Sun 06 17952 5n4”), Ob (“Ere”), H Hunt (“C U Soon” and “11e”), Water Feature (“Double Blessing I”), Laundry (“Films”), and Keyboard (“My Atelier” and “More Shingles”), provided by Tasty Morsels and Nelson Nance. Additional audio from the Connecticut Network and the Connecticut General Assembly Judiciary Committee.

40 episodes