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Jason Marks, Albuquerque attorney and former member of the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission, is heading to D.C. to present at the FCC’s Prison Phone Workshop this week.
His trip was funded, in part, by Media Literacy Project, a non-profit organization based in Albuquerque that is fighting for fair prison phone rates to help keep families together. Nationally, prison phone calls can cost up to 24 times the normal cost for the call.
The FCC’s Prison Phone Workshop provides an opportunity for prisoners’ families to demand the FCC better regulate the prison phone industry, and an opportunity for FCC staff to learn about successful state-level reforms. In the U.S., 42 states still allow prisons to collect commissions from telephone service providers, creating reverse competition where prisons sign contracts that are in the prisons’ best interest, not the inmates.
Andrea Quijada, executive director of Media Literacy Project, stated, “The current prison phone practices are predatory, syphoning money from families who often have lost their primary breadwinner due to incarceration. ”
Current prison phone rates do not reflect the cost of service; 60 percent of costs go toward commissions for corporations and prison agencies. Monthly phone bills can be hundreds to thousands of dollars.