Almost a decade ago, a petition by the families of inmates tired of paying sky-high rates for prison telephone calls landed at the Federal Communications Commission.
Martha Wright-Reed of the District, an 86-year-old former nurse who’s blind, and other petitioners didn’t think it was right for their incarcerated sons and daughters to pay so much more than everyone else to keep in touch.
Phone companies that charge high rates say most of their revenue goes to governments in the form of commissions that help pay for their criminal justice systems.
Is this fair?
Close to 3,500 days later, the FCC hasn’t decided.
“They seem to be dragging their feet,” Wright-Reed said.
Wright-Reed’s quest is a familiar one in a country that isn’t sympathetic about prisoners’ rights, emphasizing punishment over rehabilitation for those who commit crimes, inmate advocates said.
“Inmate phone system charges are often very unfair,” Stephen J. Steurer, executive director of the Correctional Education Association, said in an e-mail.
A prison education advocate, Steurer said he has had to decline collect calls from a client at Jessup Correctional Institution in Maryland because of their price. “It would actually be easier for me to visit him at JCI since it is just a few miles from my office,” he said.