January 12, 2023

Duckworth, FCC Commissioner Rosenworcel & Grandson of Martha Wright-Reed Tout Senator’s New Law to Help Working Families Keep In Touch with Incarcerated Loved Ones

The Bipartisan Martha Wright-Reed Just and Reasonable Communications Act could also help reduce recidivism, ultimately saving taxpayers money


[WASHINGTON, D.C.] — U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) this week hosted Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel and Ulandis Forte for a discussion of how her bipartisan Martha Wright-Reed Just and Reasonable Communications Act will help working families keep in touch with incarcerated loved ones and save taxpayer dollars by helping reduce recidivism. Just one week after Duckworth’s bill to strengthen the nation’s criminal justice system was signed into law by President Biden, Duckworth, Rosenworcel and Forte, grandson of telecommunications activist and the inspiration for Duckworth’s new law Martha Wright-Reed, shared the urgent need to prevent working Americans from choosing between bills and affording calls to incarcerated family members as well as discussed the law’s implementation.

“No family member should ever have to choose between staying in touch with an incarcerated loved one and paying the bills,” said Duckworth. “I’m proud that we’re entering 2023 by helping ensure that phone rates in correctional facilities are reasonable so family members can afford to stay in touch with incarcerated loved ones. Just phone calls can improve the chances that rehabilitated offenders can lead productive, healthy and fulfilled lives upon their release.”

“Consider that across the country 2.7 million children have at least one parent who is incarcerated,” said Rosenworcel. “In many cases, those who are incarcerated are separated from their families by hundreds of miles and their kin may not have the time and means to make regular visits.  Phone calls are the only way these families can stay connected. But when a single call can cost as much as most of us pay for an unlimited monthly plan, the financial burden of staying in touch can be too much to bear.  This harms the families and children of the incarcerated.  But it goes beyond that.  It harms all of us because we know that regular contact with family members reduces recidivism.  We have waited too long to fix this wrong, and we are invested in making it right.”

“The passing of this triumphant bill means that no longer do loved ones and friends have to struggle financially just to keep the bridge of communication open,” said Forte. “This bill means the world to me, because my grandmother suffered greatly, in order for us to remain in contact, sometimes choosing to go without medication just so she could pay an overpriced phone bill.”

This bipartisan legislation is named after Martha Wright-Reed, who advocated for more affordable phone rates for more than 20 years. After Martha’s grandson became incarcerated and she discovered how expensive it was to keep in contact with him, she sued the Corrections Corporation of America for their exorbitantly high phone call rates. The FCC first announced it would cap interstate prison phone call rates in 2013 after years of hard work by Martha Wright-Reed and other advocates. More information on the Martha Wright-Reed Just and Reasonable Communications Act is available here.