Today at the FCC.
“I am 36 years old, and the mother of two young boys, aged 5 and 10. Their father has been incarcerated for the last 2.5 years, and my kids are among the 2.7M children with an incarcerated parent. Losing their father to prison also meant losing over half of our family’s income, and gaining a painfully large phone bill. As you vote today I would like each of you to know that I would do anything, and pay any amount to keep my children connected to their father. But choosing between essential needs and keeping kids connected to their parents is a choice no family should have to make.”
With that kind of skillful articulation of a stunningly shameful practice and what it can mean to a family, had they not addressed the mishegoss of high prison phone rates, the FCC could’ve landed on the wrong side of history.
Luckily, commissioners Clyburn and Rosenworcel saw the situation for what it was, while Pai—-who voted against regulation—-can be at least commended for admitting that paying 17 dollars for a 15-minute phone call is a wrong that deserves to be righted.
He could’ve instead made the intellectually and morally bankrupt argument that prisoners and their families, by dent of having gotten involved with the criminal justice system in the first place, deserve what they get. And that would’ve been the kind of 1990’s, get-tough-on-crime rhetoric that landed us in this mess in the first place by spawning a punishment industry we’re just now wresting control of.
Instead, Pai demurred by making arguments about the difficulty of executing reforms as they currently stand, because they will require the kind of managerial heft he says the FCC doesn’t have, and because the new might be challenged in court. That’s progress, if only in the abstract.