Supporters of the Wright Petition have been waiting close to 10 years for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to enact rules that would provide some relief to the economic hardship families endure to stay connected to their loved ones who are incarcerated far away from their communities. Chairman Julius Genachowski has the power to move the Wright Petition forward at the FCC but up until now has failed to do so.
Ten years is far too long to continue waiting, which is why in the month of August the Campaign for Prison Phone Justice reached out to our community of prison phone activists and asked them to speak directly to the people who have the power to make the cost of phone calls from prisons more affordable.
In West Virginia, New York and California delegations of prison phone advocates and families of prisoners met with staff from Senator Jay Rockefeller (WV) and Representative Barbara Lee’s office (CA) and Representative Yvette Clarke (NY) as part of a coordinated action to secure letters addressed to FCC Chairman Genachowski.
The delegations included organizations like TURN, Media Alliance, Families Rally for Emancipation and Empowerment, the Ella Baker Center, CURE, Advo Care, and Peoples Production House. In New York and California we were successful in securing commitments for a “dear colleague” letter addressed to Chairman Genachowski letting him know ten years is too long of a wait. Letters will be sent in September.
Elected officials weren’t the only ones to speak out about the high cost of phone calls from prisons. On the front lines of the issue are the prisoners themselves who pick up the phone to call home. Their voices needed to be heard which is why Prison Legal News sent out an ad through their newsletter requesting that prisoners write letters to Chairman Genachowski sharing their stories. To date over a 160 letters have come in to the public docket at the FCC.
As one letter put it, “(Chairman Genachowski) please consider poor families, who would love to talk to their loved ones but can’t afford the cost.”
At the end of August, our partners at Participant Media launched an online petition as part of a social action strategy for the release of the film Middle of Nowhere. The film tells the story of a woman who struggles to stay connected to her husband in prison after he’s sent away for 8 years. The petition is directed at the FCC to take action to lower the cost of phone calls from prison. Check out the trailer for the film and an amazing infographic about the issue of prison phones.
Coming up at the end of September Chairman Genachowski will meet with civil rights organizations, delegations meet with elected officials in Minnesota and New Mexico, the film Middle of Nowhere screens at the FCC and you’ll find out more about the woman behind the Wright Petition, Martha Wright.