TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Re: Judge: Lawsuit About (NYS) Prison Phone Rates Can Proceed

Re: Judge: Lawsuit About (NYS) Prison Phone Rates Can Proceed
31 Aug 2005 07:10:53 -0700

Danny Burstein wrote:

> Center for Constitutional Rights announced a major victory on August 30,
> 2005 for the families and friends of people incarcerated in New York State
> prisons.

> [TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: The prisoners in Illinois really need
> to have such a lawsuit started also in their behalf. ...
> Prisoners are given the 'privilege'
> to make as many _collect_ phone calls as desired to names and phone
> numbers on lists submitted by inmates at about one or two dollars per
> _minute_. Keeping the prisoners out of touch with their families and
> friends is one surefire way to guarentee a high rate of repeat incarcer-
> ation, which is what the Corrections Industry needs for its own
> 'success', along with the profits made on expensive phone calls.

Many prisons and jails* charge high fees on prisoner collect calls.
It is a profit source. IMHO that makes it an unconstitutional tax.
Clearly it is immoral and foolish.

These fees do not punish the guilty; rather, they punish the innocent
families. It is not fair to make them suffer.

Any prison textbook will tell you that family contact keeps recidivism
down, and obviously that's something society wants. So in making
family contact harder, these policies encourage crime, not deter it.

One Long Island jail was in the news on how cruel they treat families.

They must wait outdoors in the rain in a long line to be admitted. If
capacity is exceeding, those in line are sent home; having made the
trip for nothing.

There are necessary security restrictions for prison visitors and
phone calls, but the rates for phone calls are too high. They should
be provided on a break-even basis.

*Jails are normally county units for sentences of less than a year,
prisons are normally state units for sentences of a year or longer.
Both jails and prisons have collect phone service. One jail has phones
in each cell, $1/minute.

The New York Times had an editorial today about this:

An extract:

Faced with high prison costs, the states have been desperately seeking
ways to make sure that people who are released from prison will forge
viable lives outside -- and not end up right back behind bars. Part of
the solution is to help former inmates find training, jobs and places
to live. In this context, the increasingly common practice of jacking
up the costs of inmates' telephone calls to bankrupting levels, and
then using the profits to pay for some prison activities, is
self-defeating and inhumane. It also amounts to a hidden tax on
prisoners' families, who tend to be among the poorest in American

A vast majority of the state prison systems have telephone setups that
allow only collect calls. The person who accepts the call pays a
premium that is sometimes as much as six times the going rate. Part of
the money goes to the state itself in the form of a "commission" - or,
more simply put, a legal kickback.

[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: Some people, it seems, are unclear on
the concept. Ask any police officer: People in prison are scum. If
they are in jail (instead of prison) it is only because (a) we did not
get around yet to putting them in prison (waiting for a trial) or (b)
some 'liberals and activist judges' insist on giving the scum shorter
sentences instead of taking the advice and wisdom afforded them by
those of us who are Brave and Courageous Police Officers, because we
know better on how to deal with scum.

And if people in prison are scum (as the police officer has proven to
you) then it only seems reasonable prisoner's families and friends are
scum also. We cannot punish them (family and friends) as much as we
would like, since that goddamned US constitution keeps standing in the
way (or at least the way the 'liberals and activist judges' interpret it)
so the best we (as police officers) can hope for is to punish them as
severely as we can in order that maybe -- just maybe -- we will be
able to drive a wedge between them and their loved ones. Make them
jump hoops to be able to visit inmates; drive them into bankruptcy on
their telephone bills; insist on investigating each visitor or
recipient of a phone call as closely as we are allowed (in the hopes
they also can be charged with something), etc. And, thank God for
small favors, none of us ever have any of this pinned back on us; we
never get our own noses rubbed in the messes we helped create, because
in order for that to happen it requires that the scum be able to
afford an attorney smart enough to know our 'system' and they are
usually too expensive.

(police to prisoners complaining there is only one working phone for
them to use [of the six or eight installed there] and a huge number of
new prisoners just brought in): 'its not _our_ fault the phones are
not working; _you_ would need to notify the telephone company.'

(police to visitors waiting in a line outside in inclement weather
to get in to visit who have been waiting four hours since that is when
the Salvation Army bus got there that day: 'its not _our_ fault it is
raining today [or ten degrees below zero]. Our 'regulations' say that
only X and Y can be allowed to visit today, and then only if X and Y
submit to all sorts of humiliation [which they call procedures] first.

Oh, they'll blame it on any- and everything: 'terrorism' being their
first choice in recent years. And I guess you may have read in the
news recently where President Bush wants FBI to now investigate all
prisoners and their families/friends to detirmine if they have become
'radicalized' by their treatment in prisons/jails. Cannot have any
new terrorists coming out of jail/prison ready to kick ass, can we?
I guess the prisoners and families are expected to say to the prez,
"oh no, massah, no hard feelings on this end.". PAT]

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