It’s a cliffhanger.
For a decades now, prisoner families have dug deep into their pocketbooks, sometimes putting themselves deep in debt to talk to their loved ones languishing in prisons. Keeping the kids in touch with Mom or Dad was worth the sacrifice.
That’s in large part because it’s an easy way for them to work around the steep rates phone companies charge for staying in touch with someone behind bars. The situation is same in lots of other communities around the country. Kids grow up without a financially feasible way to reach out to an incarcerated mom or dad because big corporations see lucrative profit in hiking up costs for a service many of us take for granted, and have to find another way. Friday, that could change.
When chairwoman Migon Clyburn, whose father is civil rights hero Rep. Clyburn, recently took the helm of the FCC, she also took the opportunity to bring a vote to the table. As a commissioner, she’d been pressing her colleagues on the Wright Petition—which could bring an end to the exploitation of millions of prisoner families by telecommunication companies that get away with charging them as much as six dollars a minute for calls routed between home and prison.
Martha Wright will put on her Sunday clothes, and have her grandson help her out with her wheelchair. Then they’ll drive from her Northeast D.C. home to the Federal Communications Commission, which plans to vote on the petition she and a dozen other D.C. residents submitted ten years ago. Her grandson wasn’t always there to help her with the wheelchair, for many years, he was incarcerated, and she paid thousands in phone charges.
Now, with the long awaited vote coming in the morning, the phone companies are crying foul. Faced with the prospect of the FCC finally doing right by the 2.7 million children stressed out over expensive phone calls with jailed parents, they want the FCC to slow down. In a bit of obstructionist dissemblance, their claiming the decade-old Wright petition caught them by surprise, and are asking the FCC to delay a vote on order to give the companies more time to respond.