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FCC Acting Chairwoman Clyburn Reduces High Long-Distance Calling Rates Paid by Inmates
Published:
8/21/2013 11:49:20 AM


Martha Wright(sitting), whose initial petition to the FCC languished until acting chairwoman Mignon Clyburn(standing left), a Democrat, revived it last year. Wright, now 86, had fought for reforms to the system after she struggled to afford to call her grandson in an Arizona prison.
 

On Aug. 9, The Federal Communications Commission, led by Acting Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn, took long-overdue steps to ensure that the rates for interstate long-distance calls made by prison inmates are just, reasonable and fair. The Commission’s reforms adopt a simple and balanced approach that protects security and public safety needs, ensures providers receive fair compensation, while providing reasonable rates to consumers.

For ten years, family, friends and legal representatives of inmates have been urging the courts and waiting for the FCC to ease the burden of an exorbitant inmate calling rate structure. Their wait is at long last over. Borrowing from a 1964 anthem inspired by challenges of his time, the immortal songwriter Sam Cooke sang that it’s been a long, long time in coming, but change has finally come.

Today’s Order reforms the rates and charges for interstate inmate calling services and provides immediate and meaningful relief, particularly for low income families across this nation. This Order fulfills our obligation to ensure just, reasonable and fair phone rates for all Americans, including the millions with loved ones in prison.

This all began with one Washington, D.C. grandmother, Mrs. Martha Wright, who spoke truth to power in 2003, and reminded us that one voice can still spur a movement and drive meaningful change.

Mrs. Wright once talked with her grandson Ulandis, who is here with us today, a couple of times a week, about 15 minutes each call. For this minimal contact she often paid more than $100 a month – no small change for a retired nurse. In 2003, she filed a petition with the FCC asking for help. Others who were paying a high toll for interstate inmate calls would follow her lead and after many twists and turns – we are finally here.
I am happy that Mrs. Wright’s grandson and many of her fellow petitioners are our special guests today. Millions will benefit from your perseverance and your willingness to take a stand. Thank you for seeing us through to this important day.

Mrs. Wright’s story and those of many others reveal many common themes that illustrate why the change we put forth is so very necessary. Too often, families are forced to choose between spending scarce resources to stay in touch with their loved ones or covering life’s basic necessities. One family member described how communicating with her husband is a “great hardship,” but that the few minutes that they are able to talk each week, “have changed his life.” Another parent told us how he has spent significant amounts of money to receive collect calls from his son -- calls that he “cannot afford,” but accepts because his son’s “emotional health and survival in prison is important” to him.

The Full statement available at www.fcc.gov

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