Yukon justice officials are defending the new phone system that charges inmates at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre for local calls.

The system was installed earlier this month by WiMactel, a major supplier to prisons across North America. All calls are monitored to ensure people outside the prison are not harassed, and that monitoring costs money.

Legal aid lawyers have complained that it restricts access to justice for inmates with no money.

Dan Cable, the director of communications for the justice department, said inmates with no money are given a three-call credit on the system. Also, all inmates at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre get one free call when they arrive.


Officials say the cost of monitoring the calls is the main reason for the charge. (CBC)

"There is currently nothing to prevent an inmate contacting a lawyer because we've given them funds on a phone card and there is this indigent policy and on arriving. They can certainly call a lawyer," said Cable.

Inmates are charged $1.35 for subsequent local calls.

Long distance calls are more expensive.

"The issue for legal aid is that the calls are not free, but that’s the case in many jurisdictions across Canada. We're about the middle of the pack in terms of what is charged for a local call," said Cable.

Cable said inmates are also able to apply their daily allowance of $2.50 to their phone bill.