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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

 

 

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