It’s estimated that there are over 2.7 million kids in the United States who have at least one parent in prison, most of which are hundreds of miles away from their homes. That figure is just one glimpse into the collective impact that mass incarceration has on communities, the cost of which can actually be boiled down to dollars and cents. The national campaign to lower the cost of prison phone rates is gaining momentum, as today activists and family members with the Campaign for Prison Phone Justice deliver a petition with 40,000 signatures to the Federal Communications Commission in an effort to force the legislative body’s hand in finally taking action on the issue.
According to inmates and their families, calls can often cost as much $20 for just a 15 minute call. Today’s rally will feature FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, faith leaders from Rainbow PUSH and the United Church of Christ, and families of inmates. At issue is something called the Wright Petition, which seeks to cap the cost of prison phone calls.
“I have spent over $25,000 over the last 10 years just trying to stay in touch with my son in prison,” said Lillie Branch-Kennedy in a recent press release. “There is no reason prison agencies and phone companies should be profiting off of families like mine, forcing us to choose between putting food on the table or keeping in touch with our loved ones. We rely on these calls to stay focused on building a new, healthy life together after our loved one’s release.”
On Wednesday, the FCC announced that they are at least willing to look into the issue. The Commission is circulating a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on interstate calls and rates. The NPR is a public notice that, in this case, seeks to add or change the rules that govern interstate calls to and from prisons. The vast majority of prison phones are operated by private companies that, in many cases, offer what have come to termed as “kickbacks” to individual states.
Earlier this year, Leticia Miranda took a look at prison phone rates across the country.
Stay tuned for more from Colorlines as this issue picks up even more steam as we head into the holidays and the issue of families’ rights comes front and center stage.