In 2016, New Jersey joined a national movement for phone justice and enacted a law that places limits on the excessive and exploitative rates that jails and prisons had been charging inmates for making phone calls. The law also prohibits jails and prisons from receiving kickbacks from phone system vendors. Kickbacks drive up calling rates and allow jails and prisons to profit at the expense of their vulnerable and captive populations. One phone vendor, Securus, sued the State, claiming that the law amounts to a taking of its private property. The ACLU-NJ, as a friend-of-the-court, defended the constitutionality of the law and supported the State’s case by highlighting the strong public interest in making communication between inmates and their friends and family members more accessible. Securus, the ACLU-NJ further argued, does not have a protected property right to profits derived from its exploitative practices.
The trial court granted the State’s motion to dismiss. Securus appealed and the case is currently pending in the Appellate Division.
- Securus: Amicus Brief (147 KB pdf)