Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Taking advantage Of the Unfortunate


SERVING TIME, a common term now utilized in American society today. While when saying this term you can imagine a person in prison, serving time for an offense they have committed, we never stop to think that the offenders’ family is involved in this long process as well. The offender paying for his/her offense and the rules they follow while under the jurisdiction of the correctional system inherently affects the sons, daughters, wives, husbands, mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters of those incarcerated. Prison families must learn to deal with the absence of their loved one and stay in contact with them through whatever means available. Due to low income and lack of transportation for most of the offenders’ family, they (offender’s family) are unable to make regular visits to the incarceration facility their loved ones are serving time in. Most of the time because of the lack of these resources these families have to resort to accepting collect calls from the person in prison in order to maintain a connection with family members.
According to the NYS Department of Correctional Services (DOCS), as of February 1, 2006 the current population under custody, within New York State, is 63,040. This means that DOCS has to provide resources for inmate/family contact because a large number of the prisoner’s use collect calls to contact their families, then DOCS needs a telephone provider to make this contact possible. The telephone company that provides this service is MCI (which has recently merged with Verizon); this telephone company has a contract with New York Department of Correctional Services since 1996 and gives MCI exclusive control of prison phone service to the entire correctional system of New York State. The terms of the contract between MCI and DOCS give the NYS Department of Correctional Services a 57.5% kickback which amounts to more then $20 million a year. In 2002, the Center for Constitutional Rights based out of Manhattan reported an annual kickback of $22.4 million for DOCS.
MCI charges families who take phone calls from New York state prisons $3 to connect and 16 cents per minute; a 20 minute call costs prison families $6. This is the highest rate charged in America for prison phone service, New York Campaign for Telephone Justice (NYCTJ) as the main lobbyist against the exploitive phone program has reported the charge to prison families for collect calls is 360% more than the regular price for the rest of the country. NYCTJ also reports that NYS Department of Correctional Services has made $175 million since 1996, when the contract with MCI first came into effect.
The New York State Campaign for Telephone Justice (NYSCTJ) was developed by the Center for Constitutional Rights, in partnership with Fifth Avenue Committee’s Prison Families Community Forum and Prison Families of New York, Inc. As mentioned above NYCTJ is the main lobbyist group fighting to end the contract between MCI/Verizon and the New York Sate Department of Correctional Services. This organization lobbies for adjustments in the excessive phone service charges to prison families thus giving the families of prisoners a more fair and affordable service. For further info on Telephone Justice you can visit NYCSTJ’s wed site at
www.telephonejustice.org or request information from Prison Families of New York, Inc. by calling (518) 453-6669 or sending an e-mail to pfney@nycap.rr.com .
In conclusion...Our system of corrections was built for the sole purpose of punishing all people who deviate from societal norms and break the laws that govern our nation, thus becoming criminals. The offender alone is the one that must pay for his/her offense; for it was the offender alone that broke the law which led to his/her incarceration; therefore the family of the offender must in no way be punished for the misdeed of their loved one. It is unjust to overcharge prison families for prison telephone service, this overpricing by MCI is affecting prison families economically and the NYS Department of Correctional Service is supporting and benefiting from this unfair punishment. This overcharging by MCI must stop; besides suffering for the absence of their loved one in prison/jail a family should not have to go through any additional hardships. A family member of a prisoner should, without any impediment, be able to have telephone contact with the loved one incarcerated and be charged a standard rate.


-Cuauhtémoc El Emperador Azteca

3 Comments:

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