Judge: Lawsuit About (NYS) Prison Phone Rates Can Proceed

Center for Constitutional Rights announced a major victory on August 30,

2005 for the families and friends of people incarcerated in New York State prisons.

The federal trial court in Byrd v. Goord issued an opinion upholding the constitutional challenge lodged by inmates' families, ministers, friends, and counselors to the inmate telephone system in New York, which is designed to provide the Department of Correctional Services with millions of dollars in 'commissions' or 'kickbacks'.

Rates for such calls are set well above market rates: In New York State, families pay a $3 connection fee and 16=A2 per minute, a 630% markup over regular residential consumer rates ... Meanwhile, rates at federal prisons are as low as 7 cents a minute.

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NOTE that this decision does NOT reduce the rates. It simply allows the lawsuit to proceed.

_____________________________________________________ Knowledge may be power, but communications is the key

[to foil spammers, my address has been double rot-13 encoded] [TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: The prisoners in Illinois really need to have such a lawsuit started also in their behalf. The Illinois Department of Corrections is _not_ a very nice bunch of people to be sure. Ninety or ninety-five percent of all crime (and thus inmates) in the Illinois correctional system are from Chicago. But of course they have no prisons anywhere around Chicago itself; the prisons are all in the southern end of the state 300 miles away, or some are in the western part of the state 150-200 miles away. Objective: make it as difficult or nearly impossible for the prisoner's families and friends to stay in touch with them. Prisoners are given the 'privilege' to make as many _collect_ phone calls as desired to names and phone numbers on lists submitted by inmates at about one or two dollars per _minute_. Keeping the prisoners out of touch with their families and friends is one surefire way to guarentee a high rate of repeat incarcer- ation, which is what the Corrections Industry needs for its own 'success', along with the profits made on expensive phone calls.

A division of Salvation Army working with a division of Catholic Charities operates several 'bus routes' from the Chicago area to the various prisons in Illinois (I think there are 32-35 prisons run by the state). Busses leave Chicago seven days per week at 7 AM taking the mothers and children (almost always) to see the men in prisons throughout the state. Bus arrives at Robinson, IL or East St. Louis, IL after a several hour ride, waits around for one or two hours (or however long is allowed for visits) then brings the women and children back to Chicago, arriving in the late evening. That's the ones who had gotten their phones cut off because they could not pay the outrageous fees charged by Illinois Department of Corrections for phone calls. PAT]

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Danny Burstein
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