When the FCC issued its recent order regulating interstate phone rates in jails and prisons across the country, it also asked communities to weigh in on whether it should also regulate intrastate (in-state) and international rates. Right now these in-state rates are higher in many states, including New Jersey, than the rates and caps the FCC has set for out-of-state calls! These rates have a huge effect on families whose loved ones are incarcerated or detained in local facilities. Let’s make sure that the FCC extends its protections to all phone call rates affecting prisoners and detainees. The deadline for submitting comments is December 13th – so please let your voice be heard.
Sending your comments is easy – just go to the FCC website page for submitting comments and click on “Submit a Filing” (if you want to upload a Word document) or “Submit a Filing (Express)” (if you want to just type a brief set of comments in) and reference Proceeding Number 12-375. Then just include your thoughts on why it’s important for the FCC to regulate intrastate and international rates. Some talking points might include:
- How important communication is for maintaining family relationships, improving public safety and reducing recidivism, and ensuring fairness and accountability in the criminal justice system and the immigration system.
- How expensive it is for families of prisoners and detainees in NJ to call them due to high rates, surcharges, and the 40-56% commissions (kickbacks) state and local facilities receive on profits that private telephone companies gets for these calls. Capping intrastate rates will encourage these facilities to lower all their rates and send a signal to the state and counties that commissions are no excuse for unaffordable, inflated phone rates.
- How important international calls can be for immigrant detainees in particular, who often must gather evidence from their countries of origin in order to support their cases for life-saving relief from deportation like asylum and protection against the Convention Against Torture.
- How these costs are currently being charged to the families who are least able to afford it, and are overwhelming people in poor communities and communities of color.
- Any personal/professional experience you have with people affected by this issue: if you have been in a jail or prison, if you’ve had a family member or friend in jail or prison, if you work with or otherwise know people in your community affected by this issue–how have the high telephone rates affected you/the people you know? (Lead with this point if you have good stories or examples!)