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FCC Announces Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on "Wright Petition" re prison phone rates

Prison Legal News, Jan. 1, 2012.
Press release - FCC Announces Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on "Wright Petition" re prison phone rates 2012

PRESS RELEASE

For Immediate Release - Human Rights Defense Center

November 16, 2012

Federal Communications Commission Announces Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on "Wright Petition"

Washington, DC – On Thursday, before a cheering crowd of 75 civil rights leaders, media justice activists and families of prisoners, Federal Communications Commission Commissioner Mignon Clyburn announced that the FCC is circulating a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Docket #96-128, otherwise known as the "Wright Petition." Commissioner Clyburn shared the news at the "Strong Families, Safe Communities" rally hosted by the Campaign for Prison Phone Justice outside the FCC offices.

The "Wright Petition" is named after Martha Wright, the leading plaintiff in a 2000 class-action lawsuit, Wright v. Corrections Corporation of America, filed in response to the exorbitant phone rates that Wright had to pay in order to talk to her grandson in prison. The case was referred to the FCC in 2001.

A Petition for Rulemaking was filed in 2003, asking the FCC to restructure long-distance services to introduce competition in order to lower prison phone rates. In 2007, an Alternative Rulemaking Proposal was filed, asking the FCC to establish benchmark rates for interstate prison phone calls. The 2007 alternative rulemaking proposal called for a limit of $.20 per minute for debit phone calls and $.25 per minute for collect calls.

Currently, prisoners and their families pay up to more than $17.00 for a 15-minute interstate collect phone call. Companies that run the prison phone systems – primarily Global Tel*Link, Securus and CenturyLink – make excessive profits on the calls, kicking back an agreed-upon percentage of prison phone revenue to state corrections agencies.

Following FCC Commissioner Clyburn’s remarks at the rally, representatives from the Prison Policy Initiative, Participant Media, Sum of Us and the Campaign for Prison Phone Justice presented her with 40,000 signatures in support of action on the Wright Petition.

Former prisoners and family members also spoke before the crowd, sharing their stories about the personal, economic and community impacts of exorbitant and largely unregulated prison phone rates.

"On January 18, 2002 the prison telephone nightmare began for my family," said Lillie Branch-Kennedy. She said during the first four years of her son's incarceration 200 miles from home, she and her husband paid over $10,000 in phone bills.

"I'm outraged at the phone companies for victimizing the other victim: the families of prisoners," Branch-Kennedy said.

With the FCC's issuance of the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on the Wright Petition, there is renewed hope that those victimized by price-gouging prison phone companies might find some justice.

The Campaign for Prison Phone Justice is jointly led by Media Action Grassroots Network (MAG-Net), Working Narratives and Human Rights Defense Center/Prison Legal News. Visit www.phonejustice.org to learn more about the Campaign.


For additional information, please contact:

Paul Wright, Executive Director
Human Rights Defense Center
P.O. Box 2420
Brattleboro, VT 05303
(802) 257-1342
pwright@prisonlegalnews.org


 


 

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