Rush Introduces Legislation to Protect Inmates and Their Families from Unjust Charges for Communications Services

Mar 26, 2020
Press Release

WASHINGTON — Yesterday, U.S. Representative Bobby L. Rush (D-Ill.) introduced H.R. 6389, the Martha Wright Prison Phone Justice Act, which protects inmates from unjust and unreasonable charges related to the telephone services and advance communications they rely on during their term of imprisonment.  In particular, the bill bans commissions received by prisons and other confinement facilities from communications providers, which is the primary cause of increased rates incurred by inmates and their families.

“In jails and prisons across the country, the average inmate can expect to pay as much as $25 per call they make to a family member or loved one.  Given that most prisoners are paid legal slave wages — if any wages at all — this cost is usually incurred by the person they are calling, often forcing families to choose between putting food on the table and speaking with their loved one who happens to be in prison,” said Rep. Rush.  “Predictably, these unjust and unreasonable charges can enflame already tense relationships between incarcerated persons and their support systems, thereby exacerbating recidivism.

“Mrs. Martha Wright-Reed knew this struggle intimately, forced to choose between purchasing medication for herself and communicating with her incarcerated son.  She would go on to lead a campaign for just communications rates for incarcerated people for over a decade, and later serve as lead plaintiff in Wright v. Corrections Corporation of America,” Rush continued.  “This legislation serves to commemorate her fight for justice, protect prisoners from unfair rates for their communications services, and ensure that their families do not have to make the difficult choice between paying their bills and speaking with a loved one ever again.”

In addition to banning site commissions, H.R. 6389 caps intrastate and interstate phone services at four cents per minute for debit prepaid calling, and five cents per minute for collect calling.