In a country with the highest rates of incarceration, it’s easy for me to forget what’s “normal” or “necessary.” The multi-billion dollar prison industry not only manages to maintain a cycle of prisoners and profit, but they persuade society that this is fine.Photo Credit: tourist41 (Flickr)
It’s important to make sure we do not become numb to it. I had to realize that even I have a voice on this issue – I have the privilege to speak about these injustices because I am not censored from inside the system. Not only is it a system of fear, but it’s a system of greed. Similar to how we commonly feel corporations in our daily lives are profiting and gambling for us, there are companies doing the same… quietly, and preying on the most vulnerable communities: prisoners and their families.
Global Tel-Link dominates 50 percent of the prison phone industry, turning 3 billion minutes of phone calls into $1.2 billion. Phone calls between loved ones, family, and friends aren’t just conversations… they’re connections, they’re hope, they’re humanity. Choosing to take that love and put a price on it, unmonitored and unregulated, is wrong. Especially when an overwhelming majority of prisoners were unfairly targeted in the first place – we look at them as a means of economy rather than even attempting to find truth or to uplift them. We unfairly charge them with prison time, charge them to connect, charge them per minute.
We cannot keep believing that the 2.2 million people jailed in our nation deserve to be treated as something less than human. Offenses related to drug possession and substance abuse dominate the millions of arrests that are made every year, in contrast to violent, physical crimes. This, of course, tilts the scale of justice to target communities of color. The darker the shade of your skin, the more likely you are to be profiled and the easier that you can fall subject to a stereotype. Suddenly, you become another criminal – a number in an article, a line on a graph, a dollar sign.
The FCC is voting this month to set a cap on these prison phone call rates. This is decades worth of work just to stop placing unnecessary and exploitative fees on a really simple form of human connection. A phone call, a connection to the outside world, a voice. A laugh. I believe it’s cruel to gamble with that – let alone a build a billion dollar industry to reap rewards. Technology may be taken for granted sometimes, but it represents so much to me. Technology is something so intrinsic and innovative in our lives that it becomes a tool for survival. It’s not so much the pixels or the radio waves, it’s what they carry. Continue to pressure the FCC to protect these basic human freedoms, and to support them as they ensure our right to connect.