EDITOR’S COLUMN: Inmates, Families the Losers in Prison Phone Bill Scam

Photo: The latest attempt to reduce the amount inmates and their families pay for phone calls has failed. /Courtesy photo
Courtesy photo

The older I get, the more I am convinced that America is a country in which the majority of its citizens are consumed by greed. We want more things than we need or could possibly use. We want things bigger, bolder, longer, wider, more expensive and for some of us, nothing can quell our desires. This seems to be particularly true in the business world. Certainly, I understand the importance, even the necessity, of making a profit. But making a profit, particularly exorbitant ones, on the backs of the least, the last and the lost is something that I cannot condone.

That’s why I can’t fathom why Congress won’t take up the cause led by Rep. Bobby L. Rush (D-Ill.) to amend the powers of the FCC so that they, under a revised Communications Act, would have the ability to put a cap on prison phone rates. At present, the FCC only has the authority to regulate calls between states, not within a state. Why should we care? If someone you love is currently behind bars, you can probably answer my question.

These so-called correctional facilities bargain with service providers seeking to secure the greatest percentage of the providers profits. To increase the profit margin, the U.S. facilities and the service carriers with whom they partner, charge prisoners rates that are ridiculously and unreasonably high. They pad their pockets on the backs of the inmates — men and women who are already paying a hefty price for their crimes — freedom. But the families also lose. I remember a dear friend spending about a year in jail — a year that I also felt like I was imprisoned — or maybe it was just my wallet that felt out of my grasp.

I don’t know if such a practice, unethical in my assessment, could be described as “cruel and unusual punishment,” but it sure comes close. It’s already hard enough when one must pay their dues behind bars — separated from their loved ones. But to make it cost prohibitive for them to have even an occasional telephone call — that’s simply too much.

Let’s just cite this as another example of Greed American Style.


About D. Kevin McNeir – Washington Informer Editor 192 Articles

Kevin, an award-winning veteran journalist, book editor and educator, is the editor for The Washington Informer where he displays a keen insight for political news, editorial development and lifestyle features. A staunch Wolverine, the Detroit native left a promising career at IBM to pursue his passion for writing under the tutelage of the late Sam Logan, founding publisher of the Michigan Chronicle. His journey has continued to press rooms in Grand Rapids, Chicago, Atlanta, Miami and currently Washington, D.C. With two master's degrees from Emory University and Princeton Theological Seminary, he finds great joy in his children and grandchildren and is completing his first book, "Growing up Motown" which chronicles his childhood memories with legends like Marvin Gaye, Kim Weston, the Four Tops, the Miracles, Gladys Knight, Berry Gordy and the Jackson Five.

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