Prison Price Gouging Costs Us All In The End
In 2001, the federal judge hearing the class action suit ruled that the FCC had primary jurisdiction over phone rates, kicking the case into limbo.
When Forte was released, he decided to take up the cause his grandmother initiated on his behalf. He lives in a halfway house now and credits his grandmother with instilling his discipline. Without her support, he would have exited prison “more hardened, more cold,” he says. She kept him grounded, reading the Bible.
“I don’t want anything that has to do with negativity. It has no role in my life,” the 38-year-old said.
Ending this kind of price gouging is not coddling inmates. It’s consumer fairness. Corporations shouldn’t profit from skyrocketing rates on a captive market — one that includes 2.7 million children who have one or more parents in prison.
The problem hits minority and poor communities harder due to their higher rates of incarceration, the very people least likely to be able to afford the predatory fees. Opponents argue that the profits cover higher costs of monitoring inmate calls and can offset the prison rehabilitation programs. But that is hardly the most enlightened social policy. Disconnect inmates from family and you undermine a key element of rehabilitation. You take away a powerful means of fighting recidivism. It means we all pay a higher price in the end to lock up the same people over and over.
Around the time Forte learned that his grandmother had taken up this fight (Big Mama didn’t let on at first), he began to worry about her declining health, fearful that she would die before his release.
She didn’t. Now he’s the activist. He has met with a member of the FCC and is prominent in a growing coalition of faith leaders and social justice and prison reform advocates.
Forte wants to ensure other inmates have a shot at what he gained by his grandmother’s insistent love: the chance to complete their sentences, to restart life productively and to reunite with family members who love them.
It’s the best shot parolees have at a crime-free future.
(Mary Sanchez is an opinion-page columnist for The Kansas City Star. Readers may write to her at: Kansas City Star, 1729 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, Mo. 64108-1413, or via e-mail at email@example.com.)
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