For Immediate Release
May 2, 2007
Lynn Lu, Brennan Center, 212–992–8645
Laura Abel, Brennan Center, 212–998–6737
Mike Webb, Brennan Center, 212–998–6746
COALITION URGES FCC TO LOWER RATES FOR PRISON PHONE CALLS
NEW YORK – Today the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to lower the phone rates charged to prisoners for calls made from prisons and to permit debit card calling.
The Center filed the public comments with the FCC on behalf of a broad coalition of family members, religious leaders, educators, attorneys, and social service providers who must communicate regularly with those behind bars and who bear the burden of paying the excessive cost of collect calls from prison.
“Maintaining close relationships with family members is a crucial part of the rehabilitation of prisoners as it helps them successfully reintegrate into their communities when they’re released,” said Lynn Lu, Katz Fellow and Counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice. “The high cost of these calls makes it very difficult for family members to stay in touch with loved ones who are incarcerated.”
Lu added that lowering the cost of prison phone calls would permit family members – many of whom face economic hardship – to meet other essential needs without foregoing the opportunity to remain in regular contact with loved ones and clients.
Coalition member Bob Raymond signed on to the comments based on his personal experience caring for the son of a close family member incarcerated more than 240 miles away. The cost of maintaining regular contact, says Raymond, “was so high that we were not able to pay the costs on time. Not only was the cost unreasonable, but it also resulted in damage to my credit and prevented contact between a mother and her son.”
Coalition member Ronald C. Pilenzo, a retired Florida resident living on a fixed income, also struggles to communicate closely with his son, who is incarcerated in Virginia. “We are 1,000 miles from him and can only visit a few times a year. I cannot afford to pay the ridiculous charges for a phone call to my son.” Still, he tries to receive calls from his son as often as possible. “I also feel strongly about the fact that my son needs to keep in touch with us on a weekly basis. He is alone, and we are far away.”
The public comments support a proposal filed with the FCC in March 2007 by Martha Wright and 20 others who are incarcerated or who regularly receive phone calls from incarcerated people. The petitioners ask the FCC to lower calling rates and to permit debit card calling.