8. Louisville Metro Department of Corrections should not profiteer from phone calls to families.
The Louisville Metro Budget for 2020-21 approved LMDC to collect $633,600 from “Inmate Telephone Fees.” These fees come from the $9.99 LMDC charges for a 15-minute collect call per person inside the jail.
Demanding action from Louisville Metro Department of Corrections
On October 5th, LFJA Board members, Special Project art activity leaders and community advocates wrote a letter to the Director and Assistant Director of Louisville Metro Department of Corrections (LMDC). With video visiting suspended since March 13th and no consistent public information concerning COVID-19 cases inside the jail, we called on LMDC to take three simple and humane actions for families with incarcerated loved ones in Louisville’s Main Jail Complex:
Provide at least two (2) free phone calls per week to people inside the Jail until visiting is reinstated. The current cost of collect calls to cellular phones from the Jail is an exorbitant amount of $9.99 for a 15-minute call. This fee includes a commission for LMDC.
Post weekly information about the number of cases and health protocols for COVID-19 cases inside the Jail.
Establish public guidelines for timing and conditions to resume video visiting, or create a new alternative.
The letter called for LMDC leaders to respond by October 13th, the date marking seven months with no video contact options for families. The Jail leaders chose not to acknowledge or reply to these common sense calls for action, adding lack of transparency and public accountability to the lack of basic humanity in the face of the pain and suffering especially affecting poor Black and Brown people disproportionately confined in the Jail.
SO NOW WE NEED YOU TO JOIN OUR CALL TO ACTION!
Here are four ways you can support our work:
Watch our virtual forum on Prison Phone Justice and hear the voices of directly impacted community members, including:
Chef Nikkia Rhodes points out how the high cost of phone calls unfairly punishes children and families who committed no crimes.
LaTonya MacNeal, a recovery worker, says, “a phone call can be a matter of life or death.”
Aaron Bentley, a civil rights attorney, explains how a person being held Pre-Trial and cannot pay cash bail are is less likely to be able to access a free attorney call.
Learnhow Prison Phone calls are part of the global for-profit Prison Industrial Complex now dominated by two international corporations. Research how local jails, including LMDC, get “commissions” on each call.
Sign your name and circulate this petition to engage more people in this important call to action for humanity, transparency, and accountability by Louisville Metro Department of Corrections.
Email LFJA at firstname.lastname@example.org if you or a group would like to create an additional separate letter of support like this one that focuses on children’s health.
There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives…Our struggles are particular, but we are not alone.
For more than a decade, advocates for Prison Phone Justice across our country have called for the abolition of for-profit exorbitant rates for phone calls made from prisons and jails.
Now, the intertwined pandemics in public health and racial injustice reveal how Prison Phone Justice is embedded in racial justice and health equity as an important component of public safety and wellness in our community.
Prison Phone Justice sees and affirms the full humanity of incarcerated people. People don’t stop being parents, siblings, grandparents or friends because they are incarcerated. Because of systemic racial disparities in who is incarcerated in Louisville, denying video visiting and charging high costs for phone calls inflicts more harm on Black, Brown and poor people, and their families, friends and advocates.
Prison Phone Justice respects people directly impacted by incarceration and learns from their knowledge and stories. Personal stories, like Chef Nikkia Rhodes’ loving memories of her father, challenge unspoken assumptions that incarcerated people do not have caring connections. Denying access to free visual and spoken contact with families, friends and legal advisors is racially unjust, economically unfair and harmful to the health and wellbeing of our community.
Addressing the immediate needs of currently incarcerated community members connects Prison Phone Justice to the transformative work of challenging injustice and creating safer and healthier systems for our whole community. The presence of COVID-19 inside the jail makes free and accessible communication to friends and loved ones more urgent and necessary now. In this important time of change, every individual and collective action to enact justice makes a difference because, as Audre Lorde points out, we are all connected.
Please join the call and participate in the LFJA Virtual Forum on Wednesday, October 7th from 5:30 – 6:00pm to learn more about Prison Phone Justice, hear from folks directly impacted, and what you can do about it!
LFJA always welcomes and depends on your suggestions, ideas, concerns, questions, and needs.
In mid-March, the video visiting lobby at the Louisville Metro Department of Corrections closed, understandably, because of COVID-19. Yet, now five months later, there is still no alternative for families to visually see their incarcerated loved ones and no information about when video visiting can resume.
On August 6th the Courier-Journal reported 124 incarcerated persons tested positive for COVID-19. If you have not had an incarcerated loved one, imagine how families would feel hearing this news and knowing that social distancing is impossible in the jail. All families in Louisville should have access to vital health information concerning their loved ones, especially now and especially for those being detained by Louisville Metro Government.
And it is more important now than ever to recognize that racial disparities in policing and judging mean significant and now life threatening health disparities in those who are in danger in jail.