Inmate Telephone Service Regulations and Laws

Inmate Telephone Service
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Information on Inmate Telephone Service Regulations

The Bureau of Prisons has published certain regulations concerning prison telephone services. These guidelines offer details of all the procedures and regulations controlling inmate phone calls. The article given below provides additional information concerning the regulations issued and adopted by the prisons of Alabama and Texas.

These are the jail phone regulations that have been published by the Bureau of Prisons, Justice for prisoners in correctional institutions.

Ref: 44 FR 38249, June 29th – unless otherwise noted.


Subpart I: Telephone Regulations for Inmates

540.100 – Purpose and scope.

(a) The Bureau of Prisons extends telephone privileges to inmates as part of its overall correctional management. Telephone privileges are a supplemental means of maintaining community and family ties that will contribute to an inmate’s personal development. An inmate may request to call a person of his or her choice outside the institution on a telephone provided for that purpose. However, limitations and conditions may be imposed upon an inmate’s telephone privileges to ensure that these are consistent with other aspects of the Bureau’s correctional management responsibilities. In addition to the procedures set forth in this subpart, inmate telephone use is subject to those limitations which the Warden determines are necessary to ensure the security or good order, including discipline, of the institution or to protect the public. Restrictions on inmate telephone use may also be imposed as a disciplinary sanction (see 28 CFR part 541).

(b) Except as provided in this rule, the Warden shall permit an inmate who has not been restricted from telephone use as the result of a specific institutional disciplinary sanction to make at least one telephone call each month. [59 FR 15824, Apr. 4, 1994, as amended at 61 FR 90, Jan. 2, 1996]

§ 540.101   Procedures.

(a) Telephone list preparation. An inmate telephone call shall ordinarily be made to a number identified on the inmate’s official telephone list. This list ordinarily may contain up to 30 numbers. The Associate Warden may authorize the placement of additional numbers on an inmate’s telephone list based on the inmate’s individual situation, e.g., size of family.

(1) During the admission and orientation process, an inmate who chooses to have telephone privileges shall prepare a proposed telephone list. At the time of submission, the inmate shall acknowledge that, to the best of the inmate’s knowledge, the person or persons on the list are agreeable to receiving the inmate’s telephone call and that the proposed calls are to be made for a purpose allowable under Bureau policy or institution guidelines.

(2) Except as provided in paragraph (a)(3) of this section, telephone numbers requested by an inmate will ordinarily be placed on the inmate’s telephone list. When an inmate requests the placement of numbers for persons other than for immediate family or those persons already approved for the inmate’s visiting list, staff ordinarily will notify those persons in writing that their numbers have been placed on the inmate’s telephone list. The notice advises the recipient that the recipient’s number will be removed from the list if the recipient makes a written request to the institution, or upon the written request of the inmate, or as provided in paragraph (a)(3) of this section.

(3) The Associate Warden may deny placement of a telephone number on an inmate’s telephone list if the Associate Warden determines that there is a threat to institution security or good order, or a threat to the public. Any disapproval must be documented in writing to both the inmate and the proposed recipient. As with concerns about any correctional issue, including any portion of these telephone regulations, an inmate may appeal the denial through the administrative remedy procedure (see 28 CFR part 542). The Associate Warden will notify the denied recipient that he or she may appeal the denial by writing to the Warden within 15 days of the receipt of the denial.

(b) Telephone list update. Each Warden shall establish procedures to allow an inmate the opportunity to submit telephone list changes on at least a quarterly basis.

(c) Telephone access codes. An inmate may not possess another inmate’s telephone access code number. An inmate may not give his or her telephone access code number to another inmate, and is to report a compromised telephone access code number immediately to unit staff.

(d) Placement and duration of telephone call. The placement and duration of any telephone call is subject to availability of inmate funds. Ordinarily, an inmate who has sufficient funds is allowed at least three minutes for a telephone call. The Warden may limit the maximum length of telephone calling based on the situation at that institution (e.g., institution population or usage demand).

(e) Exception. The Warden may allow the placement of collect calls for good cause. Examples of good cause include, but are not limited to, inmates who are new arrivals to the institution, including new commitments and transfers; inmates confined at Metropolitan Correctional Centers, Metropolitan Detention Centers, or Federal Detention Centers; pretrial inmates; inmates in holdover status; inmates who are without funds (see §540.105(b)); and in cases of family emergencies.

[59 FR 15824, Apr. 4, 1994]

§ 540.102   Monitoring of inmate telephone calls.

The Warden shall establish procedures that enable monitoring of telephone conversations on any telephone located within the institution, said monitoring to be done to preserve the security and orderly management of the institution and to protect the public. The Warden must provide notice to the inmate of the potential for monitoring. Staff may not monitor an inmate’s properly placed call to an attorney. The Warden shall notify an inmate of the proper procedures to have an unmonitored telephone conversation with an attorney.

[48 FR 24622, June 1, 1983. Redesignated at 59 FR 15824, Apr. 4, 1994]

§ 540.103   Inmate telephone calls to attorneys.

The Warden may not apply frequency limitations on inmate telephone calls to attorneys when the inmate demonstrates that communication with attorneys by correspondence, visiting, or normal telephone use is not adequate.

[44 FR 38249, June 29, 1979. Redesignated at 59 FR 15824, Apr. 4, 1994]

§ 540.104   Responsibility for inmate misuse of telephones.

The inmate is responsible for any misuse of the telephone. The Warden shall refer incidents of unlawful inmate telephone use to law enforcement authorities. The Warden shall advise an inmate that violation of the institution’s telephone regulations may result in institutional disciplinary action (See part 541, subpart B).

[44 FR 38249, June 29, 1979. Redesignated at 59 FR 15824, Apr. 4, 1994]

§ 540.105   Expenses of inmate telephone use.

(a) An inmate is responsible for the expenses of inmate telephone use. Such expenses may include a fee for replacement of an inmate’s telephone access code that is used in an institution which has implemented debit billing for inmate telephone calls. Each inmate is responsible for staying aware of his or her account balance through the automated process provided by the system. Third party billing and electronic transfer of a call to a third party are prohibited.

(b) The Warden shall provide at least one collect call each month for an inmate who is without funds. An inmate without funds is defined as an inmate who has not had a trust fund account balance of $6.00 for the past 30 days. The Warden may increase the number of collect calls based upon local institution conditions (e.g., institution population, staff resources, and usage demand). To prevent abuses of this provision (e.g., inmate shows a pattern of depleting his or her commissary funds prior to placing collect calls), the Warden may impose restrictions on the provisions of this paragraph (b).

(c) [Reserved]

(d) The Warden may direct the government to bear the expense of inmate telephone use or allow a call to be made collect under compelling circumstances such as when an inmate has lost contact with his family or has a family emergency.

[59 FR 15824, Apr. 4, 1994, as amended at 60 FR 240, Jan. 3, 1995; 61 FR 90, Jan. 2, 1996]

Ref: Federal regulations – the Electronic code at

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Inmate Telephone Service Regulations and Laws

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