A Mother's Day “Hangup” For Prisoners
Thursday, May 10, 2012
BOSTON - A Massachusetts prison inmate calling his or her mother on Mother's Day could pay as much as $.86 a minute. In some states, a collect call from jail can cost up to $2.75 a minute. Advocacy groups say these charges are additional burdens for families trying to provide support for incarcerated loved ones.
Lee Petro, a lawyer and expert on prison telephone service contracts, says it's because of monopolies that benefit phone companies and give commissions or "kickbacks" to state governments.
"In states where there are pre-existing contracts that involve commissions that are being paid to the local governments or state governments, a 15-minute phone call can cost more than $20."
The Massachusetts Department of Telecommunications and Cable is considering a case that calls for a review of what petitioners say are "unjust and unreasonable" rates. Historically, high rates have been rationalized by the need to monitor jailhouse calls. Advocates say better technology has brought those costs down, but inmates and their families still pay exorbitant rates.
Bonnie Tenneriello represents prisoners and families asking the Massachusetts Department of Telecommunications and Cable to review and revise jailhouse phone rates. She is optimistic they will hear the case.
"Our petitioners are complaining that the prison rates make it impossible for them to stay in touch, and we've presented a wealth of evidence that these rates are unreasonable and excessive."
Steven Renderos is an organizer of Mother's Day of Action, to be held on Friday. He is collecting stories about prisoners and families affected by the high-cost phone calls, then will send them to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), he says.
"It's an opportunity to elevate stories from families, from people who have loved ones behind bars. We're going to send those stories directly to the FCC, because the Federal Communications Commission has a direct role to play in addressing the rates of phone calls within prisons."
Lee Petro says high prison phone prices can drive a wedge between inmates and their families that, in the long run, burdens society.
"It's a proven fact, over and over again, that the level of contact they had while they were in prison - with their family and their social network - renders their re-entry into society more beneficial, more stable, and they are less likely to commit crime down the line."
Advocates say the problem affects those hardest-pressed to cope with it, pointing out that some 2.3 million people are incarcerated in America, nearly 40 percent of them black and nearly 20 percent Latino.
get more stories like this via email
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - Arkansans ages 16 to 26 who are or have been in the foster-care system now are eligible for one-time payments of at least $750…
COLUMBUS, Ohio - Jessica Molina of Perrysburg says she was inspired as a child by the spirit of activism, as she watched her parents participate in …
HARRISBURG, Pa. - U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., wants to bring back the Civilian Conservation Corps, a public-works program from the 1930s that created …
Health and Wellness
CHICAGO - Overdose deaths in Illinois rose by more than a quarter from 2019 to 2020, and medical experts are warning that pills not prescribed by a …
Health and Wellness
MINNEAPOLIS - As COVID cases trend upward again, public-health experts are setting the record straight on certain storylines about new infections…
APPLETON, Wis. - The pandemic paused many facets of life, and a new report says wellness checkups for children were among them. With school resuming …
ALBANY, N.Y. - A ballot measure could give New York residents the constitutional right to a healthy environment, and on Tuesday a group of state …
SALEM, Ore. - Young people of color are locked up at disproportionately high rates compared with their white peers, despite recent signs the gap is …