The French justice ministry said that it would install landline phones in prison cells in order to crack down on phone trafficking behind bars and to improve rehabilitation rates. According to official data, France seized more than 19,000 handsets and accessories in the first half of 2017 from an estimated 70,000 prisoners.
"There have always been call boxes in prisons, but the inmates need to be accompanied by personnel, which requires time and availability. It gets complicated," the justice ministry said.
While the new service, which envisages calls of up to four pre-approved numbers a day, seems rather convenient, it won’t be cheap – it could cost up to 80 euro cents a minute.
"Sometimes, an inmate will have four people in line in front of him for the phone in the hall. But when it's his turn, it's time to be back in the cell. Things get tense," said Christopher Dorangeville, head of the CGT Penitentiaries labor union.
After the 2016 experiment when phones were placed in every cell at Montmedy prison in northeast France, the country saw a significant drop in illicit cell phone seizures in the first half of the year.
According to Le Monde, the phones will be installed in 50,000 cells at 178 prisons across the country starting at the end of the year.
"A phone in each cell allows a degree of intimacy when speaking with family members," said Francois Bes from the International Prison Observatory, French NGO.
The only obstacle seems to be the high price of talking even after it was renegotiated down to about 65 cents it is still expensive for the majority of inmates. One of the prisoners at Reau, which is in the southeast of Paris, calculated that talking to his relatives for a few minutes a day would cost approximately 150 euros a month.