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UCC Media Justice Update

Posts in category: "prison phone"

Prison Phone Rates Come Down Again Today

Today is another step toward justice in communications.  For the last several years, advocates, clergy, people of faith and many others around our country have been campaigning to lower predatory prison phone rates.  We in the United Church of Christ heard Jesus' call in Matthew 25 to remember and visit those in prison -- as Federal Communications Commission Chair Tom Wheeler said when he gave the Parker Lecture in 2014 "the way you see people in prison today is using communications."

 

Our campaign asked the FCC to ensure that the families and friends of inmates are charged fair rates for phone calls.  We spoke out asking the FCC to follow up with its ruling lowering long distance rates and address local rates also.  Without this campaign prisons and jails were incentivized to set telephone rates because they received much of the profit from these calls.  Grandmothers and ministers were subsidizing the cost of jail and prison from their own pockets.

 

The good news is that the FCC heard us and adopted lower rates for local and long distance calls!  Thanks to everyone, UCC's JPANet and Justice and Witness Ministries, our interfaith partners and everyone who helped with this successful campaignMost of those new rules will go into effect today.  Unfortunately, because the prison phone companies and a number of states have challenged the FCC's new rules in court, we will need to wait to fully benefit from the new rules until the law suit is over--probably not until 2017.  As our policy advisor Cheryl Leanza said when the court acted, "Seemingly there is no limit to the lengths prison phone companies and sheriffs will go to keep their ill-gotten gains no matter the impact on these families, clergy, and lawyer-client communications."

We have issued a guide to help families and people in prison and jail understand which rates become effective today and what happens next.  

While we wait for the law suit to end, it is important to keep the pressure on the states and prison phone companies that are fighting just and reasonable rates.  Take action through the prison phone justice campaign, share messages on social media about these phone companies' greed and petition the state attorneys general that are thwarting prison phone justice with their legal action..

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Categories: prison phone

New Prison Phone Rates Guide

When will new rules go into effect?

The FCC adopted two effective dates for the new local rates and fee caps -- March 17 for prisons, and June 20 for jails and smaller institutions. 

 

What is the long distance per minute rate? 

The long distance (calls between two states) rate for the whole country to and from prisons and jails is still 21 cents for debit calls and 25 cents for collect calls.  That does not change. 

What are the local per minute rates?

Local rates are not currently affected by the FCC's ruling anywhere--the rules were temporarily blocked by the courts.  If your state has set lower local rates, then the lower local rate applies.   We will not have national per-minute rate caps on local calls until the court case about the FCC's rules, we expect a decision in 2017.

 

What happens to per-call fees or flat rate calling?

Those fees are now banned for both local and long distance calls.  No more calls that cost one price no matter how long you talk according to the effective dates above - March 17 for prisons and June 20 for jails.

What will the fees be? 

After March 17 for prisons and after June 20 for jails, ONLY the following fees are permitted to call to and from prison and:

 

Type of Fee

Cap

Automated payment by phone or website

$3.00

Payment through a live agent

$5.95

Paper bill fee

$2.00

NO prepaid account minimum payments

 

NO prepaid account limits less than 50

 

Third-party fees (such as from Western Union) or mandatory taxes and regulatory fees passed through with no markup.

 

 

When will we see the 11 cents per minute and 14 cents per minute rates we heard so much about?

 

Those are coming, but we must wait until the court considers the whole legal case about the new rules.  Our best guess is early 2017 before we know the outcome of the law suit.  UCC OC Inc. and our allies are filing in the law suit to speak up for families and inmates.

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Categories: prison phone

Prison Phone Rate Victory

In anticipation of the Federal Communications Commission vote tomorrow on inmate calling, the United Church of Christ's media justice ministry issued its strong support of the Federal Communications Commission vote tomorrow capping local prison phone rates.

 

"The vote tomorrow is a victory, no questions asked," said Cheryl Leanza, policy advisor for the historic ministry.  "The FCC is not only capping the rates paid by families but cracking down on fees that could otherwise have been a source of abuse."

 

Because of the limits on both rates and fees, the commissions previously paid by phone companies to jails, prisons and detention centers will be severely curtailed.  "I can see why Global Tel Link and some prison phone companies might want the FCC to stop commissions in addition to capping rates," continued Leanza, "those companies would like to keep all of the revenue and pass none of it on to correctional facilities.  But make no mistake, the only entities harmed by tomorrow's vote are the phone companies that have been gouging families and pastors for so long."

UCC OC Inc. and many civil rights and criminal justice organizations signed a letter just before the record closed, laying out their strong support for the FCC's planned vote. 

 

UCC OC Inc. has been working with a long list of allies, including The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Center for Media Justice, Prison Policy Initiative, many faith leaders, and the Prison Phone Justice campaign and all of its members.  A rally celebrating the FCC's order is planned for Thursday morning at 9:30 am outside the FCC.

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Categories: prison phone

Civil Rights, Media Justice, and Labor Groups Applaud the FCC for Further Action on Unfair Prison Phone Rates

Contact Info:
Stephanie Vanegas, 415-495-4200 ext.101 | stephanie@spitfirestrategies.com

Washington D.C. – In response to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voting to approve a Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, to comprehensively reform interstate and intrastate inmate calling services for prisons and detention facilities, civil rights, media justice, and labor groups released the following statement:

“The FCC’s plan to address the cost of local telephone calls to prison, jails and immigration detention facilities is another step toward reducing the unfair financial burden on incarcerated people and their families. We applaud Chairman Wheeler and Commissioner Clyburn’s leadership to ensure that inmates can maintain contact withparents and grandparents, children, spouses, siblings, clergy and friends.

Preserving the most reliable way for inmates to keep relationships that matter is one of the best ways to ensure our communities are safer and to decrease re-offenses and reentry into the criminal justice system.

By taking further action, the FCC can finish the job and eliminate predatory phone rates entirely. The agency has an opportunity to increase transparency in an industry that profits from outrageous fees at the expense of families and address the terrible situation facing inmates with disabilities who often cannot communicate with the outside world.

The civil rights, media justice, and labor community stands behind Wheeler and Clyburn because all families deserve the right to stay connected at reasonable and fair rates, as mandated by the Communications Act.  We look forward to rapid completion of this next phase of the FCC’s work."

American Friends Service Committee
Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC
Center for Media Justice
Common Cause
Communications Workers of America
Free Press
Helping Educate to Advance the Rights of the Deaf (HEARD)
Illinois Campaign for Prison Phone Justice of UCIMC
Media Alliance
Media Literacy Project
Open Technology Institute, New America
Prison Policy Initiative
Prisoners Legal Services of Massachusetts
Public Knowledge
NAACP
National Consumer Law Center, on behalf of its low income clients
National Hispanic Media Coalition
New Jersey Advocates for Immigrant Detainees
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
United Church of Christ, OC Inc.

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Categories: prison phone  |  press release

FCC Chairman Wheeler Announces Prison Phone Rate Reform

The following statement can be attributed to Cheryl Leanza, Policy Advisor, United Church of Christ, OC Inc.:

Today's action by the FCC to press ahead on prison phone rate reform is welcome news. We congratulate Chairman Wheeler on his wisdom in taking his cues from Commissioner Clyburn on her strong moral leadership with regard to this issue. Predatory prison phone rates not only harm families economically, they undermine a supportive network for inmates, which in turn makes our communities less safe. We are pleased to see that the Commission is proposing to reform local telephone rates and to take further action to eliminate the subsidy of our prisons and jails via telephone rates.

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Categories: prison phone



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