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Telephone Justice for People in Prison
Since 1999, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) has been fighting on the ground and in the courts to end the exploitative telephone contract between New York State and MCI/Verizon which charged family members 630% more for collect phone calls from their loved ones in prison than the average consumer. Single-carrier collect call systems are the norm for telephone service in prisons across the United States. People in prison may only call collect, and loved ones who accept the calls must accept the terms dictated by the monopoly phone company. At a time when incarcerated men and women are increasingly housed in facilities hundreds of miles away from their home communities, telephones become for many the only way to stay in touch.
In April 2007, as a direct result of CCR's organizing and advocacy, New York Governor Eliot Spitzer eliminated the State's 57.5 percent profit share commission and reduced the prison telephone rates by 50 percent. This reduction in rates impacts thousands of families across New York State, whose monthly bills have been cut in half.
In June 2007, after pressuring state lawmakers for years, the New York State Legislature finally passed the Family Connections bill, which makes it law that the State will not profit from any future prison telephone contract and that any future contract instead must "prioritize the lowest cost to the consumer."
CCR continues to fight its legal battle in New York State in Walton v. NYSDOCS and MCI. This case is critical to the welfare of thousands of families across the country who receive have received collect calls from people in New York State prisons and who have collectively lost $200 million to the state’s exploitative contract and commission.
Moving forward, CCR is working to create tools and resources for families and allies in other states to challenge their own prison telephone contracts.