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 165 Articles

Award-winning journalist, book editor, voice-over specialist and author with 17 years in the industry. Currently an education and religion beat reporter for The Washington Informer. But I also tackle local (D.C. and Maryland) politics, entertainment, business and health articles to maintain my edge.

Born and raised in Motown and a staunch Wolverine – that is a graduate of the University of Michigan, I left corporate America (IBM) to pursue my passion for writing, accepting a beat reporter’s gig under the tutelage of the late Sam Logan, founding publisher of the Michigan Chronicle. I continued to hone my craft at N’DIGO Magapaper, Windy City Times and The Wednesday Journal, all in Chicagoland; the Atlanta Voice and The Miami Times. I’ve been fortunate to be chosen twice as the Feature Writer of the Year by the Chicago Association of Black Journalists. Later, as the senior editor of one of the country’s oldest Black-owned newspapers, The Miami Times, I helped my staff bring home the NNPA’s highest honor – Publication of the Year, 2001. That same year I picked up first and second place awards for news and feature writing, respectively, also from the NNPA.

Today I’m based in the nation’s capital where I’m honored to serve as the editor for The Washington Informer. Recognizing the importance of education, I’ve earned two master’s degrees from Emory University, Summa Cum Laude and Princeton Theological Seminary, majoring in theology and philosophy.

If I can slow down, I may actually complete and publish a collection of essays I’ve been working on for many years, “Growing up Motown,” sharing childhood memories of experiences with musical legends like Marvin Gaye, Kim Weston, the Four Tops, the Miracles, Gladys Knight and Take Six. My favorite foods: spinach, lasagna, pancakes and Oysters Rockefeller. My mom, 86, always my “best friend” and “cheerleader,” now lives with me and she brings me great joy. I’m a fiercely protective yet encouraging father and grandfather always down for traveling, shopping or celebrating the natural beauty of God’s world. I live by the following words: “Less is more” and “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

You can reach me on Twitter (@dkevinmcneir), Facebook (Kevin McNeir) or via e-mail, mcneirdk@washingtoninformer.com

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