The Federal Communications Commission starts work today on implementing the new Martha Wright-Reed Just and Reasonable Communications Act, the product of years of work by UCC Media Justice and its allies. We are excited to roll up our sleeves and help establish the more equitable telephone rates for incarcerated people recently mandated by Congress.
Cheryl A. Leanza, our policy advisor, said, “Today the FCC kicks off an opportunity to right a terrible wrong, to treat all consumers as deserving of consumer protections under the Communications Act. Martha Wright-Reed is not alive today to see the law that bears her name take effect, but her legacy for justice lives on. Congress heard her call, and moved to address a completely unjust marketplace.
“While it is not always true in our media and communications justice work, the Christian Bible speaks directly to our work on this issue, with Jesus directly instructing his followers to visit people in prison in Matthew 25: 36-40,” Leanza added. “We are pleased that our work on behalf of the United Church of Christ can be directed to that calling.”
What does the Martha Wright Act accomplish?
- Gives incarcerated people and their families the same legal protections against predatory rates and fees as all other consumers.
- Authorizes the FCC to regulate prices and fees for any audio or video communications used by incarcerated people to communicate with those outside, including local calls.
- Clarified that incarcerated people with disabilities are also protected by laws that require access to accessible and usable communications technology.
- New rules will be adopted between June and December 2024, which means consumers likely begin to see the benefits in 2025.
The new federal law will do a lot, but the FCC cannot require facilities to provide free calls without cost to families and incarcerated people—to achieve that goal, we have more work to do locally and in the states!
Image: FCC Commissioner Starks visits incarcerated people.