Press Statement: http://t.co/Iqc5vZA8VG
Center for Media Justice
Contact Info: Brandi Collins, 510-698-3800 x409 | firstname.lastname@example.org
WASHINGTON — Today, the Federal Communications Commission will close the window for public comment on the “Wright Petition,” which seeks to cap the steep rates telecommunications companies charge for interstate calls made from prison.
During the comment period, hundreds of prisoners answered the call from the Campaign for Prison Phone Justice to share their “prison phone” stories. The carefully inked, handwritten letters submitted to the regulatory commission asked for relief from exorbitant phone rates for them and their families, and revealed the steep tax these costly charges impose on their most important relationships, including those with their children. There are an estimated 2.7 million children in the United States with a parent in prison.
Comments from prisoners lead the chorus of more than 40,000 comments already submitted in support of phone rate reduction. An additional 35,000 comments will be submitted today by a diverse range of voices across the political spectrum via multiple petitions. Progressive and racial justice voices are represented by CREDO Mobile and Color of Change, conservative voices are represented by the Justice Fellowship, people with disabilities are represented by Helping Educate to Advance the Rights of the Deaf, women’s interest groups are represented by the National Organization for Women, the civil rights community is represented by the Prison Phone Rates Collaborative, and families of prisoners are represented by the Campaign for Prison Phone Justice in partnership with diverse criminal justice, human rights and media groups.
“My mother is my only family on the outside. I have no one else,” wrote Washington prisoner Alex Baranyi in his letter to the FCC. “She has said many times that she wants to talk to me more but can’t because the calls are so expensive.”
After a decade of inaction the closing of the public comment period on the Wright Petition will mark an opportunity for the FCC to fulfill its mandate to ensure just and reasonable rates on telecommunications services. For telecommunications companies in the U.S., incarceration is big business, and prison phone calls result in big profits. From congressional leaders and civil rights leaders, to state public utility commissioners and media activists- the call for rate reduction is clear, the time for rate reduction is now.
A spokesperson from the Campaign for Prison Phone Justice said, “After hundreds of thousands of local, state, and national voices have been raised in support of rate reduction, any failure to lower the cost of calls from prison at this point will not only leave our most vulnerable consumers, the children of prisoners, vulnerable and alone, but will represent nothing less then the abject failure of the democratic process.”
Federal Communications Commission Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on the Rates for Interstate Inmate Calling Services
Infographic: Families Paying the Price – the High Cost of Prison Phone Calls
Washington Post: After a Almost Decade, FCC Has Yet to Rule on the High Cost of Prison Phone Calls
Campaign for Prison Phone Justice postcards
Read some of the comments from the docket
“My dad was the closest thing to me and I haven’t laid eyes on him since 1991 right before I came to prison, and now it’s too late… My father could never visit me in this cage because it would tear him apart to see me like this, and he was never much of a writer, so that left us phone calls spaced apart by years ‘cause we just couldn’t afford them.”
– Christopher Abrams, Saguaro Correctional Center, Eloy, Arizona
“Due to the prices, bad connections, and dropped phone calls, this phone system helped destroy my marriage and cripple my family. In a time that my family needed me the most, to hear my reassuring voice and comfort that only the phone system could give. The phone system let me and my family down with all its outrageous prices my wife could not afford to keep up with life’s needs…”
– Paul Gorden, location unknown
“Calls are so expensive that I haven’t spoken to my mother over the prison phone for the entire time that I have been here. It’s going on eight years… The cost of calls are often way too much. I feel terrible when I do call because I know they will have to do without something they need just so they can hear my voice.”
– Roger Gillett, Death Row, Mississippi State Pen, Parchman, Mississippi
“I already feel terrible in that I have caused my family so much pain. They have stuck by me though but with each opportunity they are getting stuck with the bill…I realize that we as convicts don’t have many rights; but should we have to pay such a heavy price to remain in contact with our families?”
– Christopher, location unknown