In the summer of 2016, New Jersey passed a bill that caps rates of calls from jails and prisons in the state, and addresses the rates of international calls. This is a huge and hard-fought victory for a network of grassroots organizations, lobbying groups, and activist attorneys.
Few people are aware of the egregious overcharging for phone calls from jails and prisons. Although the Federal Communications Commission previously issued a ruling regulating the cost of inter-state calls, charges for intrastate and international calls remained a state issue.
New Jersey was the second state, in 2016, to pass legislation (S 1880) that caps rates at 11 cents a minute for both prisons and jails in the state, and bans all commissions. The coalition of advocates that promoted the bill saw it passed in 2015, but pocket-vetoed by Governor Chris Christie. This year they were able to generate enough bipartisan support to get it passed.
This is an enormous benefit for incarcerated people and their families, including immigrant detainees. At the old rates, families often had to choose between food and phone calls. Anyone who is detained desperately needs to retain connections with family and friends. Congratulations, New Jersey, for leading the way!
Based on an article by Brian Dolinar, “Regulation of Prison Phone Calls Sweeps the Nation,”in Truthout, Thursday, 20 October, 2016. Dolinar cites Karina Wilkinson of New Jersey Advocates for Immigrant Detainees (NJAID) as a key resource for the article.