Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Squeezing $175 Million from Families of Prison Inmates

The New York State Department of Correctional Services has squeezed out of families of its prison inmates "approximately $175 million in what amounts to an unconstitutional tax since the beginning of the current MCI contract in 1996," according to the Center for Constitutional Rights ("New York Families of Prisoners Launch Campaign to End the Backdoor Tax On Prison"):
[C]alls from New York state prisons must be made collect. Rates charged by MCI, the sole provider of phone service to the prisons, are no bargain: $3 per call, plus 16 cents a minute. . . .

In New York prisons, that 16 cents a minute pays for service that MCI offers to the general public, as the rights group [the Center for Constitutional Rights] points out, for as little as 5 cents. With the $3 surcharge, the markup for a typical call runs to more than 600 percent. And thanks to a payback arrangement with the phone company, Correctional Services reaps most of the profits -- 57.5 percent, which translated last year into a windfall of $23 million-plus. (Clyde Haberman, "Condemned to Get Stuck With the Bill," New York Times, November 23, 2004)
Check out the website of the New York Campaign for Telephone Justice to get involved in the good campaign to end this hideous racket.

It's not just New York, however. Some estimate that "prison phone service nationwide generates as much as $1 billion a year" (Robert Tanner/The Associated Press, "Inmates, Prisons Feud Over Phone Bills," March 30, 2003)!

No comments: