Written by Anthony Moujaes
The UCC's Office of Communications, Inc. (OC, Inc.), is asking the Federal Communications Commission to bring down predatory prison phone rates. During a midday rally in Washington D.C. for Strong Families, Safe Communities, sponsored by the Campaign for Prison Phone Justice, more than 150 people gathered Thursday to show support for the issue, with UCC President and General Minister the Rev. Geoffrey A. Black giving closing remarks and prayer.
Today, families or pastors attempting to call prisoners often have to spend as much as $200 per month to make a weekly telephone call. The FCC has considered lowering these rates for 10 years. Black said the FCC needs to act now.
"The Federal Communications Commission has been working on this for 10 years," Black said at the rally. "The time for waiting is over. The time for action is now. We are looking forward to seeing the FCC not only to put out a proposal this month, but to take final action to end predatory long-distance prison phone rates shortly after that. A victory here at the FCC will be a signpost to all the other policy makers in the states to fix their own rules at home."
Help could soon be on the horizon, as the FCC said it began circulating a notice of proposed rulemaking for a vote. This marks the first step in the decade-long effort to make the price of calls from prison affordable. The reason phone rates can be exorbitant is because prisons select telephone providers, and in some cases the provider that offers to make the largest payment to the prison obtains right to offer their service. Prisoners can only use the telephone company selected by the prison, and the calls are billed collect to prisoner’s families with rates as high as $0.89 per minute.
"While many of us who are fortunate shake our heads at spending $40 or $60 per month on a cell phone, or more than that on cable television or internet at home, our brothers and sisters are enduring double or triple those costs on top of everything else to maintain their families through hard times," Black said.
Some states have enacted prison reform legislation, bringing rates down to as little as $0.05 per minute.
The Campaign for Prison Phone Justice is a national effort challenging prison phone kickbacks and the U.S. Prison Telephone Industry. The Rev. Jesse A. Jackson weighed in on the topic during his keynote speech at the Everett C. Parker Ethics in Communication Lecture, hosted by OC, Inc. in late September.
Learn more on how to join the OC, Inc. campaign for phone justice online.