Community Leaders Ask Whether Pricey Prison Calls Keep Us Safe

Oakland, CA – Today, as the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners prepares to debate their first resolution on the price of calls from prison, almost 100 community groups joined Center for Media Justice (CMJ) to submit a letter to the Federal Communications Commission urging action on the Wright Petition.  The “Wright Petition” has been pending before the FCC since 2003, and requests that the FCC establish benchmark rates that cap the high cost of interstate phone calls from prison facilities.

The joint letter, signed by community organizations across the nation, says the high cost of phone calls hurts the health and wellbeing of the families and communities who bear the burden of prices that can skyrocket to over $15 for 15-minute call.  Groups that have signed have ranged from local organizations to national coalitions and include Consumers Union, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, and William C. Velazquez Institute, among others.

Citing the goals of the Campaign for Prison Phone Justice--launched in 2010, and jointly led by the Media Action Grassroots Network, Prison Legal News and Working Narratives—the organizations urged the FCC to act on its mandate to ensure “just and reasonable interstate telephone rates.” 

Steven Renderos, National Organizer for the Media Action Grassroots Network says, “This is a bipartisan issue, on both sides of the aisle leaders agree that making calls from prison affordable reduces the likelihood of returning to prison, and keep families strong and communities safe.”

With the ten-year anniversary of the Wright Petition on the horizon, pressure is mounting for the FCC to take action.  Recently, the FCC’s consumer advisory committee issued a formal recommendation urging the FCC to ensure the price for prison phone calls is 'reasonable'. 

Today, Commissioners attending the November 12th, annual meeting of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC), are throwing their voices into the growing national conversation on this issue.

"We are so excited that Nebraska Commissioner Anne Boyle will moderate a panel and field a vote on whether charging families exorbitant rates to talk to a loved ones in prison is necessary or fair," says amalia deloney, Associate Director at Center for Media Justice.  "The Letter to the FCC, and this historic vote by NARUC will mark a milestone in the efforts to protect vulnerable consumers, and we hope it communicates loud and clear that fair phone rates are for everyone."

The letter to the FCC highlighting the voices of vulnerable consumers, will be joined by letters from immigrant rights criminal justice organizations, and a petition from television and film production company Participant Media later this week.

Says Working Narratives Director Nick Szuberla, "By bringing together diverse leaders representing many fields of interest, we hope to highlight the wide support for price caps on prison calls to our colleagues at the FCC.  All they have to do now is start the rule making process, and maybe next holiday season we’ll see stronger families and safer communities."

See spokesperson list for contacts available for interviews and comments.

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A project of the Center for Media Justice, the Media Action Grassroots Network is a local to local alliance of community-based organizations collaborating for a more just and humane society through media rights and access.

The Campaign for Prison Phone Justice is a national effort challenging prison phone kickbacks and the U.S. Prison Telephone Industry.  The campaign is jointly led by: Media Action Grassroots Network, Working Narratives and Prison Legal News.