To end the injustice of unfair prison phone rates, the Human Rights Defense Center, the Center for Media Justice and Working Narratives have launched a national campaign to end the kickback “commissions” routinely provided to prisons and jails by prison phone companies. We have launched two websites, www.phonejustice.org and www.kitescampaigns.org/campaign/prison-phone-justice, where we have massive amounts of information on prison phone rates, contracts and corruption; these sites also include resources for people affected by prison phone rate gouging to tell their story and take action.
In March 2012 I was among a number of advocates on the topic of prison phone justice who met in Washington, DC with Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Commissioner Mignon Clyburn to seek FCC action on this issue. Since 2005, a petition called the Wright petition has been pending before the FCC, requesting that that agency cap phone rates charged for interstate calls made by prisoners (the FCC can only regulate interstate, not intrastate, phone calls). HRDC and more than 4,800 organizations and individuals have submitted formal comments on the Wright petition. Thus far the only ones seeking to maintain the unjust system of exploitation and corruption by gouging consumers who communicate with prisoners is the telecom industry, its lobbyists and lawyers, and some prison and jail officials.
Along with Kay Perry from CURE, who directs the eTc Campaign, I outlined the concerns of prisoners and their families on this issue. Commissioner Clyburn was both receptive and sympathetic. She said one thing that would help spur the FCC to action would be to hear from people affected by prison phone rates in regard to why this is a burden and an outrage, and why the FCC should take action to end the kickbacks and impose caps on the rates charged to prisoners and their families for the cost of making interstate phone calls.
This issue of PLN has a full-page ad with relevant information on whom you can write and points to make in your letter. Just because you are in prison does not mean your voice is not important and cannot be heard. If you are tired of being exploited and having your family exploited because you make phone calls from prison, take a few minutes and contact the FCC to express your concerns about how excessively high phone rates, driven by kickbacks to prison and jail officials, have negatively impacted you and your family.
People outside prison can send letters and make comments on the public docket for the Wright petition, too. Your family members and friends can mail the FCC copies of their phone bills that reflect the high cost of prison phone calls, for example. We need to educate the FCC about the scope and devastating impact of these corrupt and anti-consumer practices. Having many affected people send letters to the FCC urging them to take action will have a larger impact than just a few organizational advocates telling them the same thing. The phone justice campaign includes a helpful toolkit, which is available online at this link: http://bit.ly/K8BUy0.
We will be running the prison phone justice campaign ad in PLN until the FCC takes action on the Wright petition, and will report updates as they occur in the campaign in future issues of PLN. If you can make a donation to support this project, please do so now.
Additionally, we have made some changes to our book list and added new titles as we strive to offer books to our readers that they can use to help and educate themselves. Please check out our book list in the back of this issue for the new additions.
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