The New York Times published an article today highlighting the struggle for fairer phone rates from prisons and jails across the county. Read it here! Pennsylvania has recently lowered the cost of calls from state prisons to $0.06/minute, or $0.90 for a fifteen-minute call.
A new contract between the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections and the phone company Securus lowers the rates for calls from state prisons to $0.059 per minute. Meanwhile, Securus will pay Pennsylvania a commission of 35%. This means that – despite what the companies have said – a low rate of under $0.06 per minute is enough for Securus to make profit for themselves and pay the state.
Our letter to the FCC about this important evidence in support of a low rate cap is here.
Time Sensitive Action Item – Due January 12!
Fill out this form to submit comments to the FCC about the impact of high in-state phone rates from correctional facilities. This information will help efforts to convince the FCC to lower the rates. Contact Rebecca at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.
Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. of New Jersey’s 6th Congressional District wrote to the FCC to voice support for its proposal to reform correctional facility phone rates and eliminate commissions from phone companies to prisons and jails. Congressman Pallone sits on the Communications Subcommittee in the House, and in January will become the Ranking Member of the entire Energy and Commerce Committee, which oversees many federal agencies including the FCC. He wrote:
“Inmates should be able to remain in contact with their families through more affordable and competitive means . . . I applaud the FCC for its commitment to reforming these policies that too often disproportionately affect detainees with minimal financial resources.”
In the wake of the FCC’s order capping interstate rates, the New Jersey State Department of Corrections has repeatedly lowered all the rates from state prisons. Most recently, a three-month contract extension lowered the rates to 15 cents per minute. Read the contract extension here.
These lower rates show that without paying commissions, companies can afford to charge families less. We look forward to further decreases in the rates at state facilities, and to parallel decreases at county facilities.
On July 9, the FCC held a forum to consider the impact of the existing Order capping rates from prisons and jails. The forum also explored potential future reforms, including limiting intrastate rates. One panel featured NJ Phone Justice’s Karina Wilkinson.
NPR covered our petition to lower phone rates from correctional facilities in New Jersey, and featured Professor Alina Das and activist and former detainee Papa Faye. Read, or listen, to the story here.
The ACLU of New Jersey joined the New Jersey Advocates for Immigrant Detainees and the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice in Trenton on April 30 when we filed our petition asking the Board of Public Utilities to cap the cost of calls from prisons and jails in New Jersey.
Read the ACLU’s letter of support to the Board of Public Utilities.
The Bergen Record reported today on the impact of the FCC’s Order lowering interstate phone rates from New Jersey prisons and county jails. The Record reports that Global Tel*Link offered Bergen County the opportunity to negotiate increases on other rates and fees to make up for the losses on interstate calls. The story featured quotes from Karina Wilkinson and Pauline Ndzie, members of the campaign for prison phone justice, and emphasized the hardship caused by exorbitant phone rates. Read the full article here.