The United States is home to a whopping 25 percent of the world’s prisoners.
According to the Prison Policy Initiative, that breaks down to 716 people for every 100,000 residents. A disproportionate number of those inmates are African American men: A 2013 Pew Research Center Study found that black men are six times as likely as white men to be incarcerated. All in all, 2.7 million youths in the U.S. are growing up with an incarcerated parent.
For too long prisoners and their families have struggled to remain connected thanks to the predatory prices— up to $10 for a 15-minute call — charged by prison-phone companies like Securus Technologies.
The fight for prison-phone justice
Much-needed relief is finally on the horizon: Last Thursday the FCC voted to reduce the out-of-control costs of local, in-state and long-distance prison-phone calls.
Over the years the skyrocketing price of these calls has made it difficult — sometimes impossible — for families to stay in touch with their loved ones. Way too many families have had to choose between bearing these costs and taking care of other vital necessities. These aren’t choices that anyone should have to make.
Commissioner Mignon Clyburn deserves credit for leading the charge at the agency to lower prison-phone rates: Last week’s vote builds on reforms the FCC adopted during her tenure as acting chairwoman in 2013.
But grassroots pressure was the real engine here; the work of the Campaign for Prison Phone Justice, including our close allies at the Center for Media Justice and the Media Action Grassroots Network, made it possible for the FCC to take action. Civil rights groups, public interest organizations and thousands of people across the country joined this call for change.
After Thursday’s vote Commissioner Clyburn spoke eloquently about the price too many families have had to pay over the years:
"These families are shouldering incredible burdens, making unbelievable economic and personal sacrifices that impact their health, education and quality of life. They face stigmas that are literally destroying communities. And for too long we remained idle as families, friends, clergy, attorneys and coalitions pleaded for relief. …
"I am extremely proud that the FCC is finally acting on behalf of the 2.7 million children who have been suffering unfairly and most often in silence. No more excuses, no more justification for inaction that put other agency priorities over fair rates at the expense of these children’s well-being."