Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Phone call for those on death row...

One of Let Kids Be Kids projects, which we fund monthly, is to donate funds to those on Washington states’s death row, so they can make a few phone calls to family per month. Todays Seattle Times (below) has a very supportive editorial to why this small bit of humanity is vital. 
DONATE to Let Kids Be Kids and we’ll get your donation to the sanctioned state rep to handle the funds.
"One out of 28 children in the U.S. has a parent in prison or jail, a rate so astonishing, and growing, that Sesame Street felt the need to add a fuzzy little blue-haired character, Alex, to talk about his locked-up dad…"
Keeping the Alexes of the nation — 2.7 million children — connected with an incarcerated parent is vital.
Maintaining family bonds between inmates and their kin has been shown to be one of the best ways of reducing recidivism. That’s why smart state and local prison systems — including those in Washington — have strong family-focused policies.
Yet, prisons and jails across the country — including in King County and around Washington — artificially raise the cost of telephone calls from behind bars. Contracts between detention facilities and telecom providers commonly include a “commission” paid back to the prison or jail.
Washington’s contract with prison phone provider Global Tel Link required a 51 percent commission on gross revenue, guaranteeing the Department of Corrections at least $4 million a year. King County’s jail has a 58 percent commission.
These are kickbacks, most commonly paid by inmates’ families for doing the very thing that research suggests will lower crime: staying in touch.
In a little-noticed announcement last week, the Federal Communications Commission took aim at the sky-high rates of prison phone calls. It soon will begin taking public comments on the cost of in-state calls, as part of a comprehensive reform proposal. A cap on commissions is among the proposals.
Prison administrators defend commissions as a revenue source that pays for amenities behind bars such as education, a legal library or, in the case of King County Jail, staff for the jail commissary. A quarter of state DOC commissions goes to the crime victims’ compensation fund.
Regardless of those intentions, inmates’ families should not be taxed to stay in touch. That is a clear example of public policies being at cross-purposes: short-term revenue gained at the expense of long-term recidivism.
This is not a new issue. A petition filed by the grandmother of an inmate has been before the FCC since 2003. In February, the regulator moved to cap costs of interstate calls from prison, and call volume across state lines went up 70 percent in some facilities.
But since then, “already outrageous costs” for in-state calls inched up, as prisons and jails jacked up their commission rates, according to FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn.
“In my 16 years as a regulator, this is the clearest, most egregious case of market failure that I’ve seen,” he said in a statement.
There is no rationality in costs for calls from jails in Washington state. A 15 minute collect call from the Stevens County Jail, in Northeast Washington, costs $18.24, the highest in the state, according to the nonprofit Human Rights Defense Center. A similar call from Snohomish County Jail is $13.39; in King County, it’s $3.50.
The difference is not on quality of service. It is how much profit localities want to suck from the families of inmates.”

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