CREDO Action

Tell Congress: End predatory prison phone rates

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The petition to Congress reads:

"Pass the Martha Wright-Reed Just and Reasonable Communications Act (S. 1764)."

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    Tell Congress: End predatory prison phone rates

    When her grandson went to prison, Martha Wright-Reed could not travel long distances to see him. Her only option to stay in touch with the grandson she raised was to pay the exorbitant rates that prison phone companies charge families. She paid more than $100 a month to call her grandson.1

    For more than 20 years, Mrs. Wright-Reed fought for affordable prison phone rates. She passed away in 2015, and now a bill named for her would limit the sky-high rates that companies can charge families for prison phone calls.2

    Charging exploitative phone rates to the families of incarcerated people is wrong. But prisons get a percentage of companies' profits as a kickback, so they have no incentive to act. We need Congress to act to stop this abusive practice.

    Tell Congress: End predatory phone rates for families of people in prison.

    Families can pay up to $25 for a 15-minute local call to an incarcerated parent, child or loved one.3 There is no competition or choice if they want to stay in touch. Under Pres. Obama, the FCC acted to cut the cost of prison calls. But Trump's FCC abandoned the policy to allow companies to charge whatever they want.4

    Phone calls are a lifeline for families to stay in touch with incarcerated loved ones. A 2015 survey found that more than 1 in 3 families of incarcerated people go into debt simply to pay for phone calls and visits.5 Staying in touch helps children connect with their parents and allows incarcerated people to maintain ties that help them rejoin society when they are free.

    The Martha Wright-Reed Just and Reasonable Communications Act would apply to all inmate communications regardless of technology, so video calls and other advanced communications services would be covered as well.

    The U.S. prison phone industry is big business, worth $1.2 billion, and it is fighting back.6 So are the prisons getting kickbacks. To end predatory prison phone rates once and for all, we need to speak out against this abusive system.

    Tell Congress: End predatory phone rates for incarcerated people and their families.

    References:

    1. Ann Marimow, "FCC made a case for limiting cost of prison phone calls. Not anymore." The Washington Post, Feb. 5, 2017.
    2. Ulandis Forte, "My Grandmother’s 20-Year Fight for Prison Phone Justice," Truthout, June 21, 2019.
    3. Peter Wagner and Alexi Jones, "State of Phone Justice: Local jails, state prisons and private phone providers,” Prison Policy Initiative, February 2019.
    4. Marimow, "FCC made a case for limiting cost of prison phone calls. Not anymore."
    5. Ella Baker Center, "Who pays? The true cost of incarceration on families," September 2015.
    6. Sam Gustin, "A new bill could finally ban predatory inmate phone costs," The Verge, March 13, 2018.