Families set to boycott prison phone costs

Greetings,

September is being called the "Month of the Stamp" Alabama makes a half million dollars per month off the prison phone lines. They made over 6 million dollars last year. I am urging you to help with the phone boycott that starts today. I understand that some cannot participate due  to legal things going on and I understand that, but if enough of us stay off that phone, they will have to deal with you and talk about getting those prices down. This is robbery without a gun. Please do not continue to help them keep your loved ones captive. The inmates write me daily asking me what they can do to help me, well, it is not about me. It is about them helping themselves. I have asked the inmates to stay off the phones in the month of September. If they will not help themselves why should anyone else try to help them. This is a hard battle we re fighting and many of you have been doing it for a long time, much longer than I, but I know we all want the same thing. Remember, if you will, please no phone calls in September. I thank Carla Crowder for an excellent article and excellent investigative work. She found that they make 500,000 a month off the phones. They had given me figures of 200,000.00 It is worse than I thought. For those that cannot stay off, maybe you can limit your calls. We have to send a message that we will no  longer be robbed without a gun. Please see attachment. May God Bless and Keep you in my Prayers.

Roberta Franklin
 

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Families set to boycott prison phone costs
Tuesday, August 31, 2004
CARLA CROWDER
News staff writer
 

Relatives of Alabama prisoners are organizing a month-long boycott of prison phone calls in hopes of depriving the prison system of some of the money raised from phone contracts.

The Montgomery-based group, Family Members of Inmates, is calling September "The Month of Stamps." The group is encouraging people who normally rely on phone calls to keep in touch with prisoners to write letters, instead.

The Alabama Department of Corrections profits more than half a million dollars per month on phone calls. Last year, the department collected about $6.5 million from the phones, according to figures provided by prisons spokesman Brian Corbett.

The money is part of about $50 million annually that the department must raise to cover costs not included in the Legislature's allocation for state prisons.

"They're robbing the family members. The inmates aren't paying," said Roberta Franklin, co-founder of Family Members of Inmates and a Wetumpka radio talk show host. "You're hurting grandmothers, single mothers out here."

The average in-state phone call from a prisoner costs ten times as much as a 50-cent pay phone call.

For in-state, long distance calls, the prisons charge a $2.25 surcharge, plus 20 cents a minute - $5.25 for a 15-minute call. For out-of-state calls, the surcharge is $3.80, plus 69 cents a minute - nearly $20 for a 15-minute call. Local calls cost $2.85.

All prison calls cut off after 15 minutes, requiring a new surcharge payment for another call.

Phone charges like these are not unique to Alabama prisons. Most states use the phone calls to raise revenue.

The states do not use regular carriers, but contract with private companies that offer call monitoring and other security features while 
billing families for the calls. Prisoners are not allowed to have phone cards or cell phones.

Franklin said her group held its first phone boycott in August 2003. That month, Department of Corrections phone revenues dipped to $512,003, down from a 2003 monthly average of $536,000.

Franklin has been spreading word of the boycott through fliers posted in state prisons and through her network of inmate relatives and advocates. 

She said her goal is to grab the department's attention and cause officials to change their policies.

"Family contact is a very important part of rehabilitation, and to punish them with these unfair rates is ridiculous," she said.


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