First of all, apologies for sleepin on the blog, yall. I’ll be steppin up with Jill’s announced vacation, and I’m back with this story which slipped through the radar for me, but I think it’s worth a deeper look.

Costs of Inmates’ Calls Cut

In what some are calling the first tax cut of the Spitzer administration, New York is slashing the cost of phone calls between prison inmates and their families, friends, and lawyers by more than half.

Governor Spitzer said yesterday that starting April 1, the state will no longer collect a share of the gross revenue generated by the state prison collect call service operated by Verizon Communications

This is very good news.

According to the article, a 20 minute call currently costs $6.20. That will drop to about $3: from 31 cents per minute to 15. Wow. It should be mentioned that some money from the excessive fees went to fund prisoner programs, but Gov. Spitzer has vowed to match that money from other areas of the prison budget.

The prison industrial complex has been in high gear over the past several decades with massive construction activity, the damaging impact of mandatory sentencing and the transfer of this public service into a privately-run, corporate product. Also know that the incarceration rate for black men is over 4,900 per 100,000 (nearly 3x that of Hispanics and 7x that of Whites).

Prisoners are considered disposable people. Remember during Hurricane Katrina that several hundred prisoners were abandoned in their locked cells, left to rot in feces-infested flood waters, left to die by the police.

It’s common to say that no politician ever got elected by standing up for the poor, but that statement has to be extra true for prisoners and their families. In an age of “tough on crime” rhetoric and the creation of “victims rights” initiatives, we often forget that prison is no walk in the park, and we refuse to remember that many in prison simply do not belong there.

I applaud that Gov. Spitzer made reform of this exploitative system one of his first moves in office and look forward to a point where our whole society re-evaluates the role of the prison in modern America.

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