Thank you to everyone who sent in comments to urge the FCC to cap the exorbitant interstate phone rates in prisons and jails! Read our official comments to the FCC. Other individual comments from coalition members and allies are available on the FCC’s website.
But the FCC isn’t the only entity that can help the families of people in prison and jail stay connected with their loved ones. In fact, we need action from other local, state, and federal agencies to put an end to kickbacks. Several states (including New York) have already ended kickbacks and lowered rates–but not New Jersey!
First, counties can act to ensure fair rates. Read our letter to Essex County, NJ and their letter refusing to be accountable on this issue.
Second, states can act to regulate or legislate fair rates. Read the testimony of Karina Wilkinson at the NJ State Budget Hearings.
Third, other federal agencies can act, like the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)–which has contracts with local counties and private entities to detain immigrants and has the power to prevent kickbacks on telephone services. Read our formal request to DHS.
Now it’s time to pressure all of these entities to act. Want to get involved? Contact [email protected] today.
The FCC is considering taking action to on the Wright Petition, which calls for rulemaking to cap rates for interstate calls in jails and prisons across the country. They need to hear from you! The deadline for submitting comments is March 25 – so please let your voice be heard.
Sending your comments is easy – the national Campaign for Prison Phone Justice has put together a handy guide that explains how you can submit comments online or by mail. Or, if you’re ready to put together a few lines about why you want them to set lower rates for interstate calls, you can go directly to the FCC website page for submitting comments today (the guide explains how to download the right forms if you have questions). If you’re running short on time, just send us an email ([email protected]) with your comment and we’ll send it to the FCC – just make sure to get it to us at least a day or two before March 25!
Whether through mail, the online system, or in an email to us, all you have to include is:
Rulemaking Number (12-375)
Your Name and Address
Views on the Subject
Talking points might include:
- How important communication is for maintaining family relationships, improving public safety and reducing recidivism, and ensuring fairness and accountability in the criminal justice system and the immigration system.
- How expensive it is for families of prisoners and detainees in NJ to call them due to high rates, surcharges, and the 40-56% commissions (kickbacks) state and local facilities receive on profits that private telephone companies gets for these calls. Capping interstate rates will encourage these facilities to lower all their rates and send a signal to the state and counties that commissions are no excuse for unaffordable, inflated phone rates.
- How these costs are currently being charged to the families who are least able to afford it, and are overwhelming people in poor communities and communities of color.
- Any personal/professional experience you have with people affected by this issue: if you have been in a jail or prison, if you’ve had a family member or friend in jail or prison, if you work with or otherwise know people in your community affected by this issue–how have the high telephone rates affected you/the people you know? (Lead with this point if you have good stories or examples!)
Want to learn more? Check out this video of testimony by NJ Phone Justice advocates at the recent FCC/Rainbow PUSH Coalition forum in NY last month.