After more than five years of lobbying, UCC Media Justice successfully led a coalition of advocates to persuade Congress to pass the Martha Wright-Reed Just and Reasonable Communications Act of 2022 on December 22, 2022. The bipartisan legislation was championed by Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-Il), Senator Rob Portman (R-Oh) and Congressman Bobby Rush (D-Il).
The legislation gives the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) the authority to establish maximum service rates for communication providers serving prisons, jails and other similar facilities. It will allow incarcerated individuals to stay in contact with their families and loved ones without paying exorbitant rates and fees. UCC Media Justice led a coalition that includes Color Of Change, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the National Consumer Law Center, Worth Rises, Free Press Action, Public Knowledge, International CURE and the Benton Institute for Broadband and Society. For years, these groups have publicly pressured, called on and spoke with telecom companies, lawmakers and other key players who profiting from incarceration by overcharging for communication services. Advocates demanded lawmakers pass the Martha Wright-Reed Just and Reasonable Communications Act to end these harmful practices.
“The predatory behavior of companies serving incarcerated people and their families is notorious. Families, pastors, attorneys and others are forced to pay unconscionable rates in order to keep in touch with loved ones, offer counseling and connection or vindicate legal rights,” said Cheryl A. Leanza, policy advisor of the United Church of Christ Media Justice Ministry. “But today, the forces of good pushed back! We are celebrating passage of the Martha Wright-Reed Just and Reasonable Communications Act of 2022 and the steadfast commitment of our Congressional champions who pressed ahead against terrible odds. The gift of connection and recognition to people who are often forgotten and left behind is immeasurable and particularly meaningful during the holiday season. The United Church of Christ Media Justice Ministry expresses our deep gratitude to Senator Duckworth, Representative Rush, Senate and House leadership and the often unsung staff who would not give up on the people counting on them. And we credit the National Sheriffs Association for coming to the table and standing by the legislative compromise it made. We look forward to working with the Federal Communications Commission to implement this new law.”