December 16, 2019

Duckworth Hosts Roundtable Highlighting Criminal Justice Reform Efforts

Senator’s bipartisan Martha Wright-Reed Just and Reasonable Communications Act could reduce recidivism and prevent Americans from being gouged on calls to incarcerated family members


[CHICAGO, IL] – U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) hosted a roundtable today at the Westside Justice Center, bringing together advocates and Chicago families to discuss her efforts to reform our criminal justice system, including her bipartisan Martha Wright-Reed Just and Reasonable Communications Act. Her legislation aims to help families keep in touch with their incarcerated family members, which studies have shown can help reduce recidivism rates and thereby save taxpayer dollars. Photos from today’s event are available here.

“Picking up a phone and calling a loved one may sound simple, but its power is immeasurable – especially for the more than 2 million incarcerated individuals in America,” Duckworth said. “The vast majority of prisoners will eventually be released, and it’s only common-sense that—once they’ve repaid their debt to society—we should do whatever we can to ensure have a chance to succeed. I look forward to continuing to work with these advocates and families to help enact commonsense criminal justice reforms like my Martha Wright-Reed Just and Reasonable Communications Act.”

Duckworth was joined at the roundtable today by former FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, Martha Wright-Reed’s grandson Ulandis Forte, American Jail Association Executive Director Robert J. Kasabian and local advocates who have been directly impacted by calling rates.

Duckworth introduced the Martha Wright-Reed Just and Reasonable Communications Act earlier this year, following a federal court decision that the Communications Act authorizes FCC to oversee interstate prison calls, but does not clearly authorize the FCC to address intrastate prison telecommunications services. Without clarification, those incarcerated and their families are forced to rely on a system that lacks competition and often charges unreasonable rates. The bipartisan legislation could correct this issue by clarifying the FCC’s ability to ensure consumers are protected against unfair and unjust telecommunications rates.

This legislation is named after Martha Wright-Reed, who advocated for affordable phone rates for more than 20 years. After Martha’s grandson, Forte, became incarcerated and she discovered how expensive it was to keep in contact with him, she sued the Corrections Corporation of American for their exorbitantly high phone call rates. The FCC announced they were capping interstate prison phone call rates in 2013 after years of hard work by Martha Wright-Reed and other advocates.