DMI Blog

Marion Rodriguez

Can Verizon just charge whatever they want?

The families of state prison inmates who have to pay more than three times the normal charge for telephone calls to keep in touch with their loved ones are essentially paying a "backdoor tax". Families say the higher costs lead to less frequent contacts, which leads to other problems say members of the Campaign for Telephone Justice.

"Children drop out of school. They have nightmares. They go to the street. It's an intergenerational problem."

About a dozen relatives of inmates went to the Capitol to urge the state Department of Correctional Services to negotiate a new contract with Verizon. They said calls to the prisons costs 16 cents a minute, compared with a more typical rate of 5 cents. They said the average call costs $9.41. The state gets a major cut of the extra charges - a total of $22.4 million in 2002, according to the Center for Constitutional Rights, a Manhattan-based civil liberties group. Phone calls are received collect through a Verizon telephone service that was formerly MCI until the companies merged in December. Families say that after 30 minutes, a computer automatically ends the call and redialing costs an extra $3. The price of a normal Verizon long- distance call can be as low as 5 cents a minute. When calling federal prisons, a caller is charged 7 cents. There are other and better options insofar as choice of service and offering fair rates!

Verizon says that specialized equipment and security features drive up the cost of making a phone call to a prison. Does that make sense to you? Of course not. Is that acceptable to you? Of course not. We all know that once the equipment is installed - that is it. At a home, as well as with this sytem, installation is not paid for forever. This system has paid for itself over and over. Therefore that is not a valid argument.

Families want results! Where is the Attorney General on this? the FCC? PULP? We want an end to the contract, an end to the kickbacks,we want fair rates, choice of provider, accountability and oversight protection from this exploitative practice that families have been forced to endure.

Marion Rodriguez: Author Bio | Other Posts
Posted at 9:44 AM, Feb 27, 2006 in Civil Justice | Criminal Justice | Economic Opportunity | Financial Justice | Racial Justice | activists
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