POMONA, Calif. — On a rare day-off from work, Sandra Suares’ morning routine consists of cleaning the house, washing dishes and cooking up a quick breakfast.
For Suares and her 3-year-old daughter, Zoey, mornings have a special meaning. When the clock strikes 9 am, they wait for a phone call from Zoey’s dad, who is incarcerated.
“Phone calls became a lot more important for us because there are not family visits at this facility, so what we have now is our phone calls or video calls,” said Suares.
Her husband, Jessie Suares, is currently serving the rest of his 33-year sentence at the Correctional Facility in California City.
Phone calls have become the only real form of connection this family has to him.
“When I hear his voice, it’s a relief and grateful because after all he is in prison, not that things happen every day but things happen, so to hear his voice the next day is a blessing,” she added.
Suares founded a Prison Advocacy organization called Jesse’s Place that helps push for policy change.
“We’re in the thousands of thousands of dollars, a year and a half ago where I started to accumulate or put together my bills,” said Suares.
According to Worth Rises, a nonprofit organization that helps provide resources to incarcerated people, nationwide providing prison telecommunication services is a $1.4 billion industry and California families pay $68.2 million every year in fees alone.
California Senator Josh Becker cosponsored the Keeping Families Connected Act, which would eliminate all phone call charges for families.
“We want people to stay connected. We want them connected to their family members. These are our brothers, our sisters, our fathers, our mothers, our son. We want them to stay connected for their sake and society’s sake,” he added.
As Suares and Zoey’s morning continued after three hours, they still hadn’t heard from Jessie.
She said it’s part of their reality, on top of no family visits, the final burden it is to make phone calls, there are days where they don’t talk. And with the holidays coming, they’re hoping to hear his voice from her or get selected to see him at the facility.