(photo credit: Niried@gmail.com)
If you are in the USA, please consider signing this important petition:
Tell the FCC: Keep families connected. End predatory prison phone rates.
FROM CREDO: Bethany Fraser struggled to pay the bills while her husband was incarcerated. The mother of two made it a priority to maintain telephone contact between her children and their father while he served a ten-year prison sentence, but the phone calls to keep them connected cost more than she spent on food and utilities every month.1 By the end of her husband’s sentence, she had moved her family three times, each time to a smaller home so that she could stay afloat financially. Bethany knew that no parent or significant other should have to do what she did, which is why she joined The Campaign for Prison Phone Justice and a coalition of organizations including ColorofChange that have been leading this this effort to cap the cost of prison phone calls.
It’s a fight that thousands of ColorofChange members have also joined by raising their voices about the predatory prison phone rates that impact millions of families with incarcerated loved ones. For years, prison phone companies got rich off the backs of a captive audience, charging families rates as high as $17 for a 15-minute call.2 After hearing from you, the Federal Communications Commission took the huge step of capping long-distance prison calls at a max rate of $3.75.3
But our work is not done. Local and state governments still continue to receive massive kickbacks from prison phone companies in exchange for exclusive contracts. These kickbacks are subsidized by sky-high fees companies levy on families—mostly black and brown—fighting to stay connected to loved ones. While the FCC rule limited kickbacks and capped long-distance calls, those calls are only a fraction of the service provided by prison phone companies. Families need rules that cap sky-high phone rates on local calls to prisons, too.
Families should not be subsidizing states’ penal budgets and padding the pockets of phone companies.
Tell the FCC to stop predatory prison phone rates once and for all by capping in-state calls at the lowest rate possible.
The prison phone industry generates more than a billion dollars a year.4 One of the ways in which these companies increase their profits is by charging exorbitant phone fees to low-income families —the people who can least afford it.
Phone calls are a necessary lifeline for people who are incarcerated. Research shows that maintaining relationships with loved ones is a strong indicator of success for anyone returning to his or her community after serving time. If the FCC ends the predatory practices of prison phone service providers, these families will be able to connect without sacrificing the money they need for food, medicine or other basic necessities.
The FCC has already taken a significant step by capping the rates on interstate phone calls, but that only covers a fraction of all the families affected by price gouging in for-profit prisons. In addition, far cheaper rates than the current cap are possible. Ten states across the country already have rates less than 10 cents a minute.8 Urge them to take the next and final step by capping phone rates on all prison phone calls.
Tell the FCC to cap phone rates for local prison calls at the lowest rate possible.
Thanks and Peace,
–Rashad, Arisha, Brandi, Brittaney and the rest of the ColorOfChange team.
1. “Prison Reform Advocates Speak Up for the Voiceless,” Rolling Stone, 7-19-2013
2. “The FCC Looks into the Prison Telephone Racket,” The Marshall Project, 12-4-2014
3. FCC Docket No. 12-375: Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. Federal Communications Commission. 10-22-2014
4. “The High Cost of Calling the Imprisoned,” New York Times, 3-30-2015
5. “Family Connections During Imprisonment and Prisoners’ Community Reentry” (.pdf), Jane Addams Center for Social Policy and Research, University of Illinois at Chicago, Winter 2004
6. “Racial Disparity,” The Sentencing Project
7. “Facts About The Over-Incarceration Of Women In The United States,” ACLU
8. “Intrastate (in-state) Collect Prison Phone Rates,” Prison Phone Justice
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