It’s time for prison phone companies to stop exploiting incarcerated people and their families. Build on our work in California by signing the national petition today!
Phone Justice in California
The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area supports Senate Bill 555: Jail FACTS (Fair Access for Connections To Support), authored by Senator Holly Mitchell.
California has the 7th highest county jail phone rates in the country. The most expensive jail in our state charges incarcerated people or their loved ones $17.80 for a 15-minute call. The result is that one in three families go into debt because of the costs of phone calls and visits alone. Most of those families are low-income and supported mainly by women of color. Worst of all, research shows that communication with family lowers the chances of an incarcerated person being returned to jail.
SB 555 will lower the costs of phone calls, video visit technology, and other services in jails and juvenile lock-ups. It also lowers the cost of commissary items. This bill also requires sheriffs departments to direct any profits made from these sales to their Incarcerated People’s Welfare Fund (IWF) to promote the well-being of incarcerated people, rather than buying more surveillance cameras and body armor.
Phone Justice Nationally
LCCR has signed on in support of the Martha Wright-Reed Just and Reasonable Communications Act of 2019, which would restore FCC authority to stop prison-phone companies from charging incarcerated people and their families predatory rates.
Prison phone companies have gotten away with charging exorbitant rates for way too long. Sign this petition telling your senators and representatives to stand up for vulnerable communities and support this bill, which would outlaw predatory rates and make phone calls to and from prisons, jails and detention centers more affordable for families trying to stay connected.
Former FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn has described prison phone companies’ exploitation of incarcerated people and their families as “the greatest, most distressing type of injustice I have ever seen in the communications sector.”
Prison phone rates are astronomical, with the price of a local 15-minute phone call costing up to $25 in some states. Many families simply can’t afford these sky-high rates. For the 2.7 million children with an incarcerated parent, this means forgoing phone calls that could help them maintain healthy relationships.
But there’s hope. Senator Tammy Duckworth and Representative Bobby Rush have just introduced companion bills called the Martha Wright-Reed Just and Reasonable Communications Act of 2019. These bills, moving through both the House and the Senate, would clarify that the FCC has legal authority to stop prison phone companies’ predatory behavior, opening the door for millions of families to connect.
These bills have been named in honor of Martha Wright-Reed, a champion in the fight for prison phone justice. For more than 20 years, Mrs. Wright-Reed fought for affordable prison phone rates. Phone calls were the only way she could stay in touch with the grandson she raised and loved: As a blind elderly woman, she could neither write letters nor travel long distances for in-person visits. She became the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit that led to the FCC phone justice rules that Commissioner Clyburn implemented.
In the legacy of Martha Wright-Reed, we’re calling on lawmakers to stand up for vulnerable communities and make prison phone calls more affordable for families trying to stay connected. Tell your senators and representatives to support the Martha Wright-Reed Just and Reasonable Communications Act of 2019.