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Aug 4, 2014

The National Coalition on Black Civic Participation Applauds Verizon for Speaking Out Against Inflated Inmate Phone Call Rates

Washington, DC--The National Coalition on Black Civic Participation (The National Coalition) commends Verizon for using its powerful voice in the telecommunications industry to speak out in an amicus brief to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit against the inflated phone calling rates paid by inmates and their loved ones, who maintain phone communications with them. In its brief filed in the appeal of Securus Technologies v. Federal Communications Commission, Verizon supported the Federal Communications Commission's actions to lower the rates for inmate calling services.

For inmates, phone conversations with their families, spouses and children are essential pathways to rehabilitation. Regular phone conversations with family and loved ones helps those who are incarcerated return to their community with a sense of acceptance and lowers their chances of returning to incarceration. The high costs of prison and jail inmate phone calls places the heaviest burden of staying connected to loved ones on those who can least afford to pay--the economically disadvantaged. This forces them to make the agonizing choice between continuing communications with their incarcerated loved ones or paying for food and other essential living expenses.

Verizon stated in its brief that, "as a communications provider and corporate citizen" it has "an interest in the rates its customers are charged for inmate calling services and the consequences that those rates have for inmates, their families, and the general public." Verizon went on to state that when phone service providers bid on contracts with the correctional facilities, the driving factor on whether to award a contract is the amount of site commission (payments to the correctional facility of a portion of any phone rates charged) paid to the department of corrections. Verizon explained in its brief that these site commission amounts often range from 40 to 50 percent of the amount billed for a phone call. These costs are passed on to the end users--the families and loved one of inmates. Verizon stated in its brief to the Court that the costs of these phone calls should be fair rather than used as a means to increase revenues for the Department of Corrections.

The National Coalition lauds Verizon for being a corporate voice in the telecommunications industry to speak out against the burden that exorbitant inmate phones rates have on the ability of the incarcerated and their families to stay connected. We look forward to Verizon's continued support in putting an end to price-gouging phone call rates for inmates and their families.

The National Coalition on Black Civic Participation (The National Coalition) is a 501©3, non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to increasing civic engagement and voter participation in Black and underserved communities. The National Coalition strives to create an enlightened community by engaging people in all aspects of public life through service/volunteerism, advocacy, leadership development and voting.

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