Groups Urge Representative Clarke to Stand Up Against Prison Phone Kickbacks

Representative Clarke meets with a Campaign for Prison Phone Justice delegation.
Representative Clarke meets with a Campaign for Prison Phone Justice delegation.
  • Representative Clarke meets with a Campaign for Prison Phone Justice delegation.
    Representative Clarke meets with a Campaign for Prison Phone Justice delegation.
    Representative Clarke meets with a Campaign for Prison Phone Justice delegation.
    Representative Clarke meets with a Campaign for Prison Phone Justice delegation.
  • Campaign for Prison Phone Justice delegation with Representative Clarke
    Campaign for Prison Phone Justice delegation with Representative Clarke
    Campaign for Prison Phone Justice delegation with Representative Clarke
    Campaign for Prison Phone Justice delegation with Representative Clarke
Yesterday evening, a delegation of organizations from New York met with Representative Yvette Clarke to discuss the high cost of receiving a phone call from a prison, jail or detention center.  This visit was held as part of a larger effort called the Campaign for Prison Phone Justice a national campaign seeking to lower the cost of prison phone calls.  Member-organizations of the delegation included the Center for Media Justice, People's Production House and Families Rally for Emancipation and Empowerment.  The delegation is petitioning Representative Clarke to ask the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to address the high cost of prison phone calls by passing the Wright Petition.

The Wright Petition, which has been in front of the Commissioners since 2004, requests the agency to examine the public harm caused by high phone rates charged to people in prison.  A typical 15-minute call costs between $10-15 in most prisons- higher than the cost of calling to Singapore, up to 60% of the charges go towards kickbacks to the state and corporations.    New York currently is one of only eight states that have banned these kickbacks – making the leadership and support of state legislators crucial to passing the Wright Petition. The lack of regulation on the federal level means that residents of New York calling out of the state still have to shell out hundreds of dollars to stay connected to their loved ones in prisons and detention centers.

During the meeting, members of delegation recounted stories, either from personal experience or communities they worked with, of the repercussions of high prison phone calls.  "Most New Yorkers are detained on average 100 miles away from home,” says Carlos Pareja, Training and Policy Director for People's Production House and a member of the delegation that visited the Representative. “This makes visits infrequent and phone calls more vital to staying connected.”

“For many of the 2.7 million children in the United States with one or both parents incarcerated, hearing the voices of their parents can make the difference between a child feeling loved – even while enduring incarceration- or feeling totally abandoned,” adds Steven Renderos of Center for Media Justice. “For the sake of our families and communities, we really need Representative Clarke and other legislators in the state to step up and urge the FCC to end these predatory rates.”

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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.