Sign on letter re Inmate Calling Technical Corrections Act - Oct 2018
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Senator Tammy Duckworth 524 Hart Senate Office Building Washington, DC 20510 Senator Cory Booker 359 Dirksen Senate Office Building Washington, DC 20510 Senator Rob Portman 448 Russell Senate Office Building Washington, DC 20510 Senator Brian Schatz 722 Hart Senate Office Building Washington, DC 20510 October 5, 2018 Dear Senators Duckworth, Booker, Portman and Schatz: As nonprofit organizations and community members that support reforms of the criminal justice system to strengthen the ties between incarcerated people and their loved ones, we are proud to endorse S. 2520, the Inmate Calling Technical Corrections Act of 2018. For more than fifteen years, families have been calling on the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) to provide relief from the exorbitant costs that the prison phone companies impose just to stay in touch. But some children still have to pay over a $1/minute to talk to an incarcerated parent. Without regulation, these high costs persist because many prison systems, local jails and detention facilities award monopoly contracts to phone companies that charge the highest rates and therefore share the largest portion of the profits with the correctional institution.1 While the Federal Communications Commission had made some progress toward capping rates and fees in recent years, the phone companies fought back, attacking the FCC’s jurisdiction over the cost of calls and fees and thereby dismantling most of the previously-adopted regulation.2 Consistent with FCC Chairman Pai’s testimony in his confirmation hearing, the bill is narrowly targeted to clarify the Federal Communications Commission’s jurisdiction. It makes clear the FCC is required to ensure “just and reasonable” rates for consumers, rather than only protecting phone company profits. The bill also clarifies that the Federal Communications Commission’s authority is technology-neutral, which is particularly timely as many of the companies are using new technology. For example, many correctional facilities have expanded their use of video 1 For a detailed overview of the dysfunctional system see Please Deposit All of Your Money: Kickbacks, Rates, and Hidden Fees in the Jail Phone Industry by Drew Kukorowski, Peter Wagner and Leah Sakala (Prison Policy Initiative), May 8, 2013, available at https://www.prisonpolicy.org/phones/ 2 For an overview of the litigation, see Prison Phone Update: Appellate Court Deals Major Blow to Prisoners and Their Families by Carrie Wilkinson (Prison Legal News), June 30, 2017, available at https://www.prisonlegalnews.org/news/2017/jun/30/prison-phone-update-appellate-court-deals-major-blow-prisonersand-their-families/ calling technology, which has not only led to banning of in-person visits,3 but also threatens to circumvent regulation. Unfortunately, too often, our nation’s criminal justice policies fail to recognize and support the powerful and positive role families play in rehabilitation. This trend is not only harmful to families trying to stay together during the hardship of incarceration; it is also misguided correctional policy. Improving the ability of families, clergy and others to maintain a relationship with incarcerated people improves the safety of all communities. And yet visiting an incarcerated loved one is already difficult for many. Correctional facilities are often located far away from people’s home communities, forcing families to rely on phone calls to stay in touch. A recent study found that more than a third of families surveyed went into debt to cover phone and visitation costs.4 The Inmate Calling Technical Corrections Act would enable the Federal Communications Commission to revive the work it has already completed to reduce the cost of telephone communication home from prisons and jails and ensure the new law will be effective regardless of which technology is used to provide communications services. It will also ensure that inmates with disabilities receive protection. We are hopeful that the Inmate Calling Technical Corrections Act will rein in the exploitation of families of incarcerated people throughout the country. This bill recognizes and respects the humanity of incarcerated people by offering them the same consumer protections afforded to the rest of the nation’s consumers. On behalf of the millions of children of incarcerated parents, we thank you for your leadership and look forward to working with you to ensure passage of the Inmate Calling Technical Corrections Act of 2018. Sincerely, A New PATH (Parents for Addiction Treatment & Healing) A New Way of Life Re-Entry Project Access Humboldt American Psychological Association California Families Against Solitary Confinement California National Organization for Women Californians United for a Responsible Budget (CURB) CANDO Foundation Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice Church of Scientology National Affairs Office 3 Seventy-four percent of local jails across the country that adopt video visitation eliminate in-person visits. See: Screening Out Family Time: The for-profit video visitation industry in prisons and jails by Bernadette Rabuy and Peter Wagner (Prison Policy Initiative), January 2015, available at https://www.prisonpolicy.org/visitation/report.html 4 Who Pays? The True Cost of Incarceration on Families by Saneta deVuono-powell, Chris Schweidler, Alicia Walters, and Azadeh Zohrabi (Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, Forward Together, and Research Action Design) September 2015, available at: http://whopaysreport.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/Who-Pays-FINAL.pdf Color of Change Community Works West Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, US Provinces Cunningham Township Supervisor’s Office CURE (Citizens United for Rehabilitation of Errants) Defending Rights & Dissent Ella Baker Center for Human Rights End Solitary Santa Cruz County Face To Face Knox FAIR CHANCE PROJECT FedCURE Franciscan Action Network Freedom for Immigrants (formerly CIVIC) Friends of Guest House Helping Educate to Advance the Rights of Deaf Communities (HEARD) Human Rights Defense Center Illinois Campaign for Prison Phone Justice Interfaith Action for Human Rights International CURE Islamic Society of North America Justice Strategies LatinoJustice PRLDEF Legal Services for Prisoners With Children Life for Pot LPS/LIFE Progressive Services Group Inc Maine Prisoner Advocacy Coalition NAACP National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd National Alliance of Faith and Justice National Association of Social Workers National Hispanic Media Coalition National Urban League New Jersey Advocates for Immigrant Detainees No Exceptions Prison Collective OCA – Asian Pacific American Advocates Opportunities, Alternatives and Resources of Tompkins County, NY Organize Justice OVEC-Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition Place4Grace Prison Policy Initiative Prisonwatch Network Public Knowledge Queer Detainee Empowerment Project Riverside All of Us or None Social Workers Against Solitary Confinement Starting Over, Inc. StoptheDrugWar.org The Jordan Center The Ladies of Hope Ministries (The LOHM) The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights The National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls The United Methodist Church - General Board of Church and Society UCIMC UCLA Prison Law and Policy Program Union for Reform Judaism United Church of Christ, OC Inc. Voice of the Experienced Volunteers for Hancock Jail (ME) Residents (VHJR) Working Narratives David Miles Ellen Barry Ms. Gail Smith Jamila Hammami, MSW Joanne Hessmiller, Ph.D., LCSW Judy Schuler Kristie E. Puckett, MA Penny Schoner Robin Davenport Sharon Dolovich, Professor of Law, UCLA School of Law, Director, UCLA Prison Law and Policy Program Tamara Sanford Topeka K. Sam Ms. Veronica Schweyen Whitney Foskey