NM Public Regulations Commissioner testifies before national board in Maryland
After initiating the inmate phone resolution passed by the New Mexico Public Regulations Commission in September and successfully enacting state-level rate caps on prison phone services earlier this month, Jason Marks took his concerns about exorbitant prison phone rates to the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) annual meeting in Baltimore, Maryland.
Earlier this year, Commissioner Marks worked with Media Literacy Project to draft a resolution that would serve as NARUC’s official statement against the predatory phone rates set by telecommunications companies that contract with state prisons, jails, and immigration detention centers. Marks attempted to introduce the resolution at the NARUC Summer Committee Meetings in Portland in July. However, he was unable to obtain a sponsor on the NARUC Telecom Committee. At the NARUC Annual Meeting last week, Marks worked with Telecom Committee member Anne Boyle (Nebraska) to present and support the resolution, and it was adopted by the NARUC Board of Directors.
Some phone companies get away with as much as $15 for a 15 minute call in American prisons. This burden rests on the families of America's roughly 2.3 million inmates. This practice does not only harm the inmates and their families that are struggling economically; it hurts communities. In 2010 Congress was briefed on the impact that familial communication and connectivity has on recidivism.
Though New Mexico is one of nine states (including the District of Columbia) that does not receive “kickbacks” from phone companies that profit off of exorbitant prison phone rates, we do have families with loved ones incarcerated in faraway states. Only federal regulation will keep interstate calls from being a communication barrier for families with loved ones who are incarcerated. Media Literacy Project and national advocates see this resolution as a critical step in influencing the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to take action on this issue.
“I've been working on our New Mexico rate caps for prison phone services for a few years,” said Marks. “But without Media Literacy Project’s urging, I never would have gotten involved on the national level. With the advocacy groups, FCC Commissioner Clyburn, and now NARUC pushing, there's good momentum for the FCC to finally deal with the problem, and protect the vulnerable families of the incarcerated across the country.”
“We applaud Commissioner Mark’s leadership on this issue, both in New Mexico and nationwide,” says Media Literacy Project Executive Director Andrea Quijada. “Along with our national partners in the Campaign for Prison Phone Justice, we thank FCC Commissioner Clyburn for her support of this resolution and urge the rest of the FCC commissioners to follow her lead.”