From the Editor
by Paul Wright
I have long observed that it costs a lot of money to be poor in America. Since our criminal justice system falls almost exclusively on those who are poor, it should be no surprise that a great deal of time and energy goes into keeping the poor ensnared in the justice system.
For decades, PLN has reported on the measures used to criminalize the poor and ensure they remain impoverished through imprisonment, fines, restitution, “cost of incarceration” fees, court costs, high prison and jail phone rates, and all the myriad other ways in which prisoners, detainees and their families are financially exploited.
This month’s cover story delves into some of the details of the intentional immiseration of those swept into the machinery of mass incarceration. While officially touted as a means of making mass imprisonment more affordable for the ruling class, the reality is that the exploitative nature of our justice system merely increases the number of people who, for the most part, are unable to pay the costs of being a prisoner or defendant. If the criminal justice programs designed to siphon money from the poor were effective, then prisons, jails and the court system wouldn’t need additional money from government coffers.
At the Human Rights Defense Center (HRDC), PLN’s parent organization, we are doing our part to try to reduce the cost of being poor in America. For example, we continue to push the Federal Communications Commission to reduce and cap the costs of all prison and jail phone calls, including intrastate (in-state) calls. On July 9, 2014, PLN managing editor Alex Friedmann and I testified at an FCC workshop in Washington, DC about the continuing need for reform with respect to prison and jail phone rates. We will continue to report on developments in this regard; HRDC is a co-founder and coordinator of the national Campaign for Prison Phone Justice, along with MAG-Net and Working Narratives.
You can help! We need copies of phone bills reflecting the cost and charges associated with prison and jail phone calls. If you or your family has such bills, please send them to our Florida mailing address to the attention of David Ganim, our PPJ Director. In addition to costs related to the calls themselves, we are also interested in additional charges such as the cost of setting up a prepaid account, putting money on phone accounts using credit cards, monthly account fees, etc.
Between now and the end of the year we are running our Subscription Madness campaign, which offers steeply discounted multiple one-year subscriptions to PLN for first-time subscribers. The goal is to introduce new people to PLN. Take advantage of this special offer and order multiple PLN subscriptions for your friends, family members and favorite government officials and policymakers! See the Subscription Madness ad on p. 11.
Also note that PLN sends out a free email list that includes between 6 and 10 criminal justice news reports, five days a week. Did I mention it’s free? Our email list has current criminal justice-related stories with something for everyone. To sign up, just go to: www.prisonlegalnews.org/subscribe/email.
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