Prison Phone Rates in Louisiana, America’s Prison Camp, Face Hearing

The Louisiana Public Service Commission hearing on prison and jail phone reform is scheduled for November 15th, in Baton Rouge.  Commissioner Foster Campbell is proposing a 25% rate cut and elimination of extra fees for phone calls.  All the contracts and kickbacks are posted on the Prison Phone Justice website.

Lawyers and family members are encouraged to gather up those phone bills and explain why it is immoral for the sheriffs and DOC officials to call this an important revenue stream.  These rates, averaging 30 cents per minute, are making it challenging (if not impossible) for prisoners to maintain relationships with their families.  Organizing support are not only the “usual suspects,” but also the Louisiana Interchurch Conference Committee on Criminal Justice.  They voted yesterday to submit a proposal that reduces rates.

The DOC will then turn around and expect a seat on task forces and councils geared towards “Reentry” and “Rehabilitation.”  Prison officials should either admit that their primary motivation, even in so-called reentry efforts, is money… or they should pause to recognize the error of preying upon families for their revenue stream.

Rates range up to 27 cents per minute, and six dollars in surcharges slapped on.  It reminds me of the rates I faced in Rhode Island, before advocates forced the DOC to the table and it was changed.  My mother could only afford to call me once per month, for 20 minutes, as it was $20 for that.  Looking back, as a parent, I am astonished we could go an entire year and only speak for four hours as she lived far away.  Four hours in one year.

If you want to testify at the meeting, contact Bill Robertson, at Foster Campbell’s office:

Bill Robertson, Office of Foster Campbell
Louisiana Public Service Commission
PO Drawer E
Shreveport LA 71161
318-676-7466
Bill.Robertson@LA.GOV

People should also reach out to their local clergy.

Formerly incarcerated and family members should contact VOTE (Voice Of The Ex-Offender) for more information, or learn how to get involved.

One final question for the DOC:  If a prisoner loses contact with the outside world, and has no support when released… then commits another crime and returns to prison… how much money did you REALLY put into your revenue stream?

 


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About Bruce Reilly

Bruce Reilly is the Deputy Director of Voice of the Ex-Offender in New Orleans, LA. He is a graduate of Tulane Law School and author of NewJack's Guide to the Big House. Much of his writing can be found on www.Unprison.org.
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