Put Minutes On Phone For Jail Calls – Covid-19 has forced members of parliament to take a closer look at remote work. Until then, it’s time to move on.
Anthony Alvarez, 82, talks on the phone with his 80-year-old sister at the California Colony Agrippina prison on Dec. 20, 2013, in San Luis Obispo. | Andrew Burton/Getty Images
Put Minutes On Phone For Jail Calls
Sylvia A. Harvey is a journalist who writes about the intersections of race, class, and politics and author of The Shadow System: Prison Masses and the American Family.
Jail Rules And Visitation — Marion County Sheriff’s Office
The Covid-19 pandemic has hit America’s incarcerated population hard. In addition to being exposed to the above-mentioned conditions of infection in menses and in unsanitary establishments, they were excluded by the uninvited children, one of their outside companions.
The most important of the prisoners now have to call their loved ones, but they come at an exorbitant price. Calls from jails and prisons can cost $1 per minute or more, even if you’re in the state. Even before the pandemic, 1 in 3 families of incarcerated people, especially low-income people and people of color, were in debt to pay prison calls. The corona virus has made this burden worse.
At the start of the pandemic, the federal prison system made all phones free, but most local and state systems have not followed suit.
It is a national mosaic effect that makes an already unfair system even more punitive. People in federal prisons still made free calls until the state of emergency was lifted; State and local resource persons are subject to local policies and procedures that protect them. Some offer a free 5-minute call per week, while others offer no support at all.
Ics Corrections, Inc.
Congress has the ability to rebuild, with legislation on the table to cap interest rates. But even reinstating this provision in another pandemic support package doesn’t go far enough: the country’s jails and prisons have to demand their phone service, while calls are the main cost of doing business and finding the business case to make . need to stay connected, which research shows is one of the most important factors in helping incarcerated people reintegrate into society.
This change won’t be easy, in part because prison systems themselves say they depend on revenue as much as phone companies.
The $1.2 billion telecommunications industry is dominated by a handful of private companies, although two key players, Easy Technologies LLC, which has 3,400 facilities, and Global Tel Link, GTL, which serves more than 2,400, have an oligopoly over the industry by outdoing their bids. competitors . Together, they own 70 percent of the non-federal telecommunications industry and are able to hold onto that market while charging significantly higher fees and charges than traditional commercial carriers, largely due to the franchise fee system. refunds, paid to telephone companies to facilitate those who obtained private contracts.
When players in the prison telecommunications industry began offering jails and prisons a percentage of their revenue to win contracts in the 1990s, facility managers began prioritizing commissions through low rates when choosing phone service. Associations competed with each other by offering higher and higher fees until many magistrates became dependent on the new source of income. Jail and prison authorities are now asking dealers for contracts that would share a large percentage of the revenue.
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Advocates and the families of affected criminals have fought the practice for years, winning several victories as the Federal Communications Commission, the agency that regulates the prison phone industry, lowered the rates. In 2013, the Democrat-controlled FCC imposed a 21-cent cap on interstate calls from both jails and prisons.
However, rates for government calls, which account for more than 90 percent of all calls, have remained flat and high, costing as much as $30 for a 15-minute call in some states. In 2015, the FCC expanded these limits for use during a call, making them less than 11 cents per minute. But in 2017, major prison operators sued the FCC. United States Court of Appeals for D.C. In 2015, the circuit shut down the calls nationwide, saying the FCC had exceeded its regulatory powers. The Telecommunications Act prevents the FCC from regulating interstate communications. The FCC did not defend the federal appeals court, leaving families where they started.
Under pressure as the global crisis rages and American families struggle to stay afloat, Secure Credit has limited free reports and some free and reduced rates for calls and video chats during the pandemic. And GTL offered a free 5-minute phone call or two free emails every day of the week. But even these efforts, which are uncoordinated across resources and have been scaled back or even ended in some areas, represent a drop in the bucket compared to the hundreds of millions of dollars in profits that phone companies have made from families over the past few decades. . And it’s not far from a long-term solution.
Additionally, prison telephone services sought federal assistance during the pandemic. Just five days after announcing its initiative to help families, Securus filed an emergency petition asking the FCC to exempt inmate service providers from their obligation to contribute 20 percent of their revenue from interstate prison calls and international to the FCC’s Universal Service Fund. , a. an organization that provides critical programs to keep rural and low-income communities, schools, libraries and health care providers digitally connected. Fortunately, they lost it on both sides. More than 60 public interest groups filed a petition against their request, and in July the FCC denied it, saying it undermined USF’s mission, was not in the state’s best interest, and was neither competitive nor technologically neutral.
State Of Phone Justice
At the behest of the families and advocates of the incarcerated, the parliament considered the legislation to be a good first step in solving the problem. In March, after the work of Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) introduced the Martha Wright Prison Justice Phone Act, which was included in the nearly $3.5 trillion HEROES Act that passed the House in May but stalled stalled in the Senate. The petition in D.C. The appeals court would rule on and review the FCC’s authority to regulate all cell phone calls in prisons and jails. It also caps intrastate and interstate calls at 4 cents per minute for prepaid debit calls and 5 cents per minute for collect calls and throttling charges.
While Republicans and Democrats on the Hill appear to be at odds over their support for the coronavirus relief package, which is not just an economic but a criminal justice issue, at least there is bipartisan agreement in Washington. August 6, 2020 In 2020, Trump-appointed FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai announced a proposed rulemaking to require additional maximum charges for interstate calls, which would reduce calls to jail by up to 44 percent. The goal, Pai wrote, was “what we can do to do what is right and what is justice.” The administration has called for a cap on domestic prices, which the FCC lacks the authority to change. In addition, the trustees will vote on the affiliate’s salary cap.
Still, the best solution, called for by some Democrats and activists in the Senate, goes beyond capping interest rates: They should waive calls for people in prison, even after the pandemic ends. And to achieve this, decades of local and state government development must focus on incarcerating individuals and families with the various costs of incarceration. The cost of communication from jails and prisons should be considered no less a major cost of operating a facility than the cost of plumbing or lighting. Advocates have successfully lobbied for states like New York and San Francisco to shoulder the costs of the communication, but ultimately federal support appears necessary for a patchwork of local jails and prisons operating across the country to follow suit. The cost of telecommunication services is not as high as it seems. With the Free Calls Act, telcos can no longer offer refunds like Easy – previously funded by losing fees to incarcerated people and their families – as facilities exchange private contracts and real competition for these services could thrive.
Now, the financial burden of incarceration, the cost of calls, falls disproportionately on black, brown, and poor people, but otherwise, mass incarceration punishes not just the incarcerated but entire communities and perpetuates poverty and disadvantage. The longer politicians delay passing at least Martha Wright’s prison phone legislation wrapped in a Covid relief bill, the more the bill will perpetuate overcrowding for families already struggling with the burdens of loneliness, incarceration and racial inequality . The reform focuses on how much calls cost inmates in Maine, where families can spend thousands of hours talking to a loved one in prison. Photo: Fred J. Field.
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