skpic provincial inmates jail phones

Advocates for provincial inmates say the cost of placing a phone call is too high since the service was taken over by a private sector company. (CBC)

Criticism has arisen over increases in the cost of phone calls placed by provincial inmates.

One advocacy group, the Saskatchewan Coalition Against Racism, or SCAR, says the new system, which is operated by a private sector company, is too expensive for most inmates and their family.

The current price for a phone call is $1 to place the call and talk for one minute, plus 30 cents for each additional minute of talk. Inmates only have one option to place a call and that is to phone someone collect. The cost of the call appears on the phone bill for the person who accepts the collect call.

The higher price is putting added pressure on an inmate's ability to stay in touch with family, critics say.

"People get out of jail you know and you want people to be strongly connected to their family and their community," Bob Hughes, from SCAR, told CBC News.

Michael Ross, who has been an inmate, adds keeping in touch with family is vital.

"You totally need to talk to your family when you're in there," Ross said. "You're not being rehabilitated if your head is wondering what's going on with your family."

Officials with the Ministry of Justice said the new phone system improves surveillance of inmates and enhances security in jails.