Victory in the Struggle for Telephone Justice

[Courtesy of our friends at the New York Campaign for Telephone Justice] Thank you for all your support and participation in the campaign thus far. We made significant headway in 2006, and today we had a big victory – Governor Spitzer Ended the Backdoor Tax on NY State’s Prison Phone Contract, effective April 1, 2007. This victory is the result of your dedication and participation in this campaign. Please see below for details about Governor Spitzer’s actions and upcoming meetings on how you can help us move forward to permanently stop the contract. We will keep you up-to-date on the developments from today’s events, and please contact Lauren Melodia at [email protected] or 212.614.6481 if you have questions and to stay involved at this critical moment. ********************************************************************************************** VICTORY – Gov. Spitzer Ended the Backdoor Tax on NY State’s Prison Phone Contract, effective April 1, 2007 January 9, 2007 - Court Action in Albany at Oral Argument in telephone justice case Walton v. NYSDOCS GET INVOLVED – Upcoming campaign meetings Recent Press – Albany Times Union, North Country Gazette, Staten Island Advance, NY Daily News, New York Times. ********************************************************************************************** 1. VICTORY – Gov. Spitzer Ended the Backdoor Tax on NY State’s Prison Phone Contract, effective April 1, 2007 January 8, 2007 Albany, New York – Families in New York with a loved one in prison won a long-awaited victory today when Governor Spitzer committed to end the burdensome, back door tax on collect calls to inmates’ families. Since 1996, families of inmates have had no choice but to pay phone rates 630% the normal consumer rates to speak with their loved ones. And for the past 11 years, New York State has been collecting nearly 60 percent of the profits of these charges, $16 million in 2005. Family members have complained that the exorbitant phone rates forced them to choose between maintaining their relationship with a loved one and putting food on the table. Governor Spitzer declared that instead of raising funds via a backdoor tax imposed on the family members of inmates, the state will pay for mandated services in prisons using the State’s General Fund. Families should begin realizing savings in early April, when the General Fund will assume costs for these mandated services, including health care and family-based programs. “This is a victory for all New Yorkers because increased contact with family members is proven to reduce recidivism rates after release,” said Annette Dickerson coordinator for the NY Campaign for Telephone Justice on behalf of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR). “Everyone benefits when inmates stay connected to their families, and for most people this means contact over the phone. Governor Spitzer has demonstrated his commitment to civil rights. The unlawful tax was flatly unconstitutional.” “Thank you Governor Spitzer, you are righting a major wrong,” said Ivey Walton, a prison family member. “This contract was ridiculous and illegal. Soon, no one will be cut off from their family just so the Department of Corrections and some telephone company can make a profit.” “We commend Governor Spitzer for standing up for innocent family members and doing what’s fair for all New Yorkers,” said Alison Coleman, Director of Prison Families of New York, Inc. a partner in the campaign. “By halting this backdoor tax Governor Spitzer and his administration have effectively stalled the contract with Verizon from renewing automatically. We’re thankful that at last we have a Governor who is acting in the people’s interest, not defending corporate profiteering and the bureaucratic status quo.” 2. January 9, 2007 - Court Action in Albany at Oral Argument in telephone justice case Walton v. NYSDOCS On January 9, 2007 at 2:00pm, New York States’ highest court – the Court of Appeals – is set to hear arguments in Walton v. NYSDOCS, which argues that the current prison phone system illegally imposes an unlegislated tax on inmates’ families. The court could dissolve the contract and end the overcharging. If you are in or near Albany, join us as we show support during the Oral Arguments at: Walton v. NYSDOCS January 9th at 2pm State of New York Court of Appeals 20 Eagle Street Albany, NY 12207 Walton v. NYSDOCS was originally filed in 2004 by the Center for Constitutional Rights and seeks an order prohibiting the State and its contracted prison phone provider from charging exorbitant rates to the family members of prisoners to finance a 57.5% kickback to the State. Judge George Ceresia of the Supreme Court of NY, Albany County, dismissed the suit in fall 2004, citing issues of timeliness. In August 2005, the Center for Constitutional Rights filed and won an appeal in this case. 3. GET INVOLVED – Upcoming campaign meetings We need to make sure that Spitzer’s efforts today remain part of NY State law and that the exploitative contract is replaced with one that is fair and provides options for families. Please join us this month – during our monthly conference call or our monthly meeting – as we discuss critical next steps in the campaign to permanently replace the contract with one that works for families and loved ones! Tuesday, January 16, 2007 at 7:00pm EST NYCTJ Family Member Conference Call Folks are invited to participate in the call at 7:00pm Eastern Standard Time. Call Alison at 518.453.6659 or email her at [email protected] for the Toll Free Number. The Family Member Conference Call occurs every month on the third Tuesday of the month. Tuesday, January 30, 2007 6:00pm – 8:00pm NYCTJ Monthly Meeting 666 Broadway, Room 602 between Bleecker and Bond Streets. Meetings are open to all friends and family members of people incarcerated in NYS prisons, ally organizations, and anyone concerned about this critical issue. Light refreshments served. Email Lauren Melodia at [email protected] or call 212.614.6481 to RSVP. Our monthly meetings are held the last Tuesday of every month.
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