Keep Families Connected: Demand NY Lawmakers Make Prison/Jail Calls Free

New York State Lawmakers

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Communication — staying in touch with our loved ones — has always been a lifeline for each of us. Amid the dual crises of a public health pandemic and subsequent economic devastation, it is even more critical. Now more than ever, we understand how important communication and relationships are for mental and emotional health and how debilitating isolation can be.

So, as New Yorkers struggle to stay connected and stay afloat financially, no one should be subjected to the added stress of not being able to check-in with incarcerated loved ones due to costly phone calls. No one should wonder when their incarcerated loved ones will next be able to call or how they will pay for those calls.

Right now, the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, the state’s prison system, charge 65 cents per 15-minute phone call. For some incarcerated workers, 65 cents is as much as seven hours of labor. The exploitation is even worse in New York’s jails, where counties take an average 47 percent on calls, and a single 15-minute call can cost as much as $9.95 — plus taxes and other fees.

Yet, this is the reality for families that have been most devastated by the pandemic and targeted by mass incarceration -- particularly in Black, Latinx, and economically distressed communities.1

That’s why we’re making our demands clear: Every family deserves to stay connected. Now more than ever, it’s crucial that we call on New York elected officials to make phone calls free for incarcerated people and their loved ones.

Families should not have to suffer and struggle to stay connected ever, but especially during a pandemic. Meanwhile, while the prison and jail telecommunications industry continues to rake in $1.2 billion a year from those same families.

We’re fighting for legislation that would end the extraction of wealth from Black and Brown families, and we need your help to make sure this critical legislation is signed into law this year. Sign the petition to hold NY state lawmakers accountable, and to demand free phone calls for incarcerated people in New York.


Reference:
1. Lives on the line: Women with Incarcerated Loved Ones and the Impact of COVID-19 Behind Bars (Report). Essie Justice Group & Color Of Change. https://livesontheline.org/report/
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To: New York State Lawmakers
From: [Your Name]

Communication has always been a lifeline for each of us. Now, amid the dual crises
of a public health pandemic and subsequent economic devastation, it is even more
critical.

New York should not be restricting access to basic communication or allowing
corporations to exploit families’ desperate need to stay connected. As a legislator, you have the power to deliver relief for your constituents and their loved ones. That's why we're calling on you and your colleagues in the NY State Legislature to make phone calls free for incarcerated people and their loved ones.

More than ever, people understand how important communication and
relationships are for mental and emotional health and how debilitating isolation can be. So, as New Yorkers struggle to stay connected despite social distancing and stay afloat financially, they should not be subjected to the added stress of wondering when their incarcerated loved ones will next be able to call or how they will pay for those calls.

New York can end these restrictive policies and predatory rates today.
Connecting Families — a coalition that includes Color Of Change, Worth Rises, Unchained, The Osborne Association, Fines & Fees Justice Center, and other advocates for prison phone justice — supports legislation that grants New Yorkers the ability to communicate with their incarcerated loved ones at no cost and codifies increased access to phones and email kiosks across all state prisons and county jails. Doing so would rightly alleviate further economic distress on families across New York.

For the families of the approximately 40,000 people incarcerated in state prisons and 11,000 people in local jails, this relief is urgently needed. Increased communication will not simply keep families connected, but will ensure families are well-positioned to provide support upon the release of their loved ones.

Families should not have to suffer and struggle to stay connected ever, but especially during a pandemic. Meanwhile, while the prison and jail telecommunications industry continues to rake in $1.2 billion a year from those same families.

We're calling on you to pass critical legislation to end the extraction of wealth from Black and Brown families and help New York families stay connected during this particularly difficult moment.

Learn more: https://nyconnect.org/