That might be your takeaway from this super confusing AP piece that was picked up by the Spokesman-Review. And "Washington inmates get free phone call today" isn't a very ambiguous headline. But here's what's really going on.
The idea of convicted criminals being rewarded at taxpayer expense? Always a good way to get a reader's attention. But the truth is much less outrage-inducing.
Turns out, Washington outsources its prison telephone system to the very bizspeak-sounding Value-Added Communications in Plano, Texas, who also do work in other states and with the federal government.
Phone calls in prison are expensive for inmates. Even an in-state call can cost upwards of 16-cents a minute. So as a means of helping inmates maintain communications with the outside world, Washington required Value-Added to include the free 20-minute calls in its contract -- a contract which doesn't cost the state a dime; Value-Added makes money from the calls themselves -- making it the only state to do so.