Tell the FCC: End predatory prison phone rates

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Martha Wright's petition challenging predatory prison phone rates, languishing before the FCC since 2003, is finally getting a hearing. Families shouldn't have to choose between maintaining a relationship with a loved one behind bars and putting food on the table, but extortionate charges of $20 for a 15-minute call tear families apart every day.

Here's the statement we'll send to the Federal Communications Commission regarding FCC Docket #12-375. The FCC is required to review every comment submitted, so we strongly encourage you to personalize your comments using the box in the form:

Dear Chairman Julius Genachowski and Commission members,

The phone service providers awarded monopoly contracts by prison operators have a captive audience in the millions of American families with incarcerated loved ones, and that captive audience is subjected to indefensible price gouging for basic communication.

One in ten Black men in their 30s is in prison or jail on any given day, and federal sentencing data shows that Black men receive longer sentences than white men for the same crimes. Among Black children, one in nine has an incarcerated parent. This is an enormous inelastic market for prison phone operators, who prey upon the need to keep family connections alive over the course of years or even decades apart.

Keeping up regular family contact is not only key to supporting our loved ones while they are incarcerated, but it also plays a critical role in reducing recidivism and and assisting with successful reintegration into our communities post-release. The federal Department of Corrections and Rehabilitations (CDCR) explicitly recognizes the need for inmates to maintain family contact while incarcerated, as do many state governments.

Where individual states have outlawed or restricted the commission kickback system that determines the bulk of call charges passed on to prisoners' families, both rates and fees have fallen significantly. For the majority of states that refuse to end this grossly corrupt practice — tacking on arbitrary commission payments of between 15 and 60+ percent — it's clear that federal intervention is necessary to protect families and the communities devastated by such predatory business practices.

I urge the Commission to take decisive action to cap interstate phone charges in the prison phone industry and protect our families' right to connect.


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