Public Knowledge Urges Senate To Pass Phone Bill To Keep Incarcerated People Connected

Senate Commerce marked up a bill to extend the FCC's authority to end predatory pricing for calling incarcerated people. The bill calls for "just and reasonable" rates no matter what technology is used.

Today, the Senate Commerce Committee marked up the “Martha Wright-Reed Just and Reasonable Communications Act of 2021,” a bill introduced by Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) to extends the Federal Communications Commission’s authority over both intrastate and interstate calls to end predatory pricing for calling incarcerated people.

The bill mandates the agency to ensure that call prices to and from incarceration facilities are “just and reasonable” no matter what technology is used. Legislation to accomplish similar objectives has been introduced in the House of Representatives. Public Knowledge urges the Senate to pass the bill to keep incarcerated people connected with loved ones and their essential support system.

The following can be attributed to Al Kramer, Senior Fellow at Public Knowledge:

“Everyone has a right to connect with loved ones at reasonable prices. Incarcerated people need access to their external support system – spouses, children, other loved ones, and even their lawyers – to successfully reenter society. Moreover, these loved ones need access to their incarcerated family member for their own well being. These unconscionable phone rates impose undue hardship on many families, forcing them to choose between connecting with incarcerated loved ones or putting food on the table. No one should ever have to make that choice.

“This bill marks an important and long-overdue step in addressing an area rife with abuse, and one that often impacts communities of color. We applaud Sen. Duckworth for championing the needs of incarcerated people and their families no matter what phone technology is used or whether the calls cross state lines. We urge the Senate to pass this bill to provide just phone rates for incarcerated people.”

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