A phone justice victory in Cook County, IL is a victory for all
As the national fight to lower interstate prison phone rates heats up at the Federal Communications Commission, the temperature is rising in states and counties across the United States. Last week, the Louisiana Public Service Commission voted to cut the rates of prison and jail phone calls by 25% and eliminate extra charges, to the relief of tens of thousands of prisoners and their families. Today, Cook County, Illinois – home of one of the biggest jail systems in the country – took a huge step towards affordable communication for prisoners and their families by negotiating a new agreement with Securus Technologies that lowers the costs of Cook County Jail phone calls.
An effort spearheaded by Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, the new contract promises to cut prices in half and double the amount of time that people can talk on the phone (paid calls are extended from 15 to 30 minutes). Instead of a five minute call at booking, people can get 15 minutes of free calls. The new contract also eliminates extra surcharges and reduces connection fees. Preckwinkle, an ally of the Campaign for Prison Phone Justice, described a core issue in a Chicago Weekly Citizen editorial:
“As I have often said, jails are the intersection of racism and poverty. African-Americans and Latinos disproportionately fill our cells…. Giving them the opportunity to make phone calls to their families at reasonable rates not only provides a connection to loved ones — an important factor for successful reentry — but it’s the right thing to do.”
In These Times highlights the connections between the local fight and the nationwide push for the FCC to act on the Wright Petition, pending before the FCC since 2003. The recent notice of proposed rule-making on the Petition “mark[s] the first step forward in a ten-year national effort,” said Brandi Collins of MAG-Net and the Campaign for Prison Phone Justice. There is no question that the momentum for fair prison and jail phone rates is picking up. The Campaign for Prison Phone Justice thanks the Cook County Board for doing the right thing.
Read the full In These Times article here.