‘The faith community can assist inmates and their families’
Religious communities are celebrating the recent action of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) decision to end the high price of interstate phone calls made by inmates.
According to The Crime Report, the social justice ministry of the United Church of Christ and the American Civil Liberties Union praised the FCC decision as “a manifestation of justice.”
“Prison phone calls can cost a family up to 3,000 dollars per year for a weekly fifteen-minute conversation,” The Crime Report said. “Rates of up to one dollar per minute, plus connection charges, can lead a family to choose between communication with an inmate, or medicine.”
The Crime Report said it cost inmates and their families more to place phone calls because of security monitoring, which is problematic, compared to regular phone rates that average citizens are charged.
“If we believe that ‘corrections’ contains an inherent value of supporting change for incarcerated men and women, then we must value the role of phone calls to friends and families,” The Crime Report said.
“The faith-based initiative which I direct, we place a premium on the role that phone calls can play in an inmate’s ability to properly manage his time in prison, and support their successful reentry into society,” said Harold D. Trulear, director of Healing Communities Prison Ministry and Reentry Initiative.
The Crime Report provides several examples of how three Philadelphia churches and their members support inmate rehabilitation with phone calls:
At holiday time, Berean Baptist Church places money on the books of inmates who have family members in the church.
Praise and Glory Tabernacle has one member of its congregation that offers the use of her home phone to families in the church with loved ones who are incarcerated, so inmates can call and speak to their families on a regular basis.
Moore’s Memorial Baptist Church accepts phone calls every evening from one incarcerated young adult from its neighborhood.
“The faith community can assist inmates and their families through the creative use of phone calls to keep them connected to sources of social support,” The Crime Report said.
In a hearing held in July 2013, the FCC voted 2-1 to place a limit of 25 cents per minute on the amount charged for interstate calls, while also eliminating prohibitive connection fees.