For Immediate Release
January 14, 2014
Contact: Karina Wilkinson, NJAID, [email protected]
Alix Nguefack, AFSC, (973) 854-0401
New Jersey Advocates Look Forward to Decrease in Prison Phone Rates
Newark, NJ – The New Jersey Advocates for Immigrant Detainees (NJAID) applaud Monday’s decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to allow the implementation of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)’s Order capping interstate rates from prisons and jails to go forward. Beginning on February 11, 2014, the Order will limit rates on calls between states to $3.15 for a fifteen-minute debit call and $3.75 for a fifteen-minute collect call. The Court granted phone companies’ motion to delay several provisions of the Order, including provisions requiring prison phone rates to be cost-based and setting presumptively fair “safe harbor” rates. The New Jersey Advocates anticipate that upon review the Court will uphold these provisions, along with the rest of the Order.
“The implementation of hard caps on interstate prison phone rates will provide much-needed relief to immigrant detainees and other incarcerated people, along with their families,” said Karina Wilkinson, Co-Founder of the Monmouth County Coalition for Immigrant Rights, a member group of the New Jersey Advocates for Immigrant Detainees. “Currently, New Jersey state correctional facilities and county jails charge rates that exceed the FCC maximum, with some reaching over $15 for a fifteen-minute call.”
Bergen and Hudson Counties detain hundreds of immigrants who are in the custody of the New York office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. “Affordable phone calls to their lawyers and families in New York make detainees more likely to win their cases and better able to re-integrate into their community upon return,” said Roberto Concepción, Associate Counsel at Latino Justice PRLDEF.
Nonetheless, phone rates within New Jersey remain unregulated. After the Order goes into effect calls from New Jersey prisons and jails other than local calls will be more expensive than calls to other states. “New Jersey should follow the FCC’s lead,” said Alix Nguefack, Detention Project Coordinator at the American Friends Service Committee’s Immigrant Rights Program in Newark. “The state Board of Public Utilities or the legislature should cap intrastate rates so that they do not go above interstate rates.”
NJAID advocates to end immigration detention and for improved conditions for those in detention, including lower phone rates for immigrants held in New Jersey. For more information about NJAID and to read our comments on the FCC’s Order, visit www.njphonejustice.org.