Upstream. A Mohawk Valley Blogzine.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

George Pataki, MCI & The Hidden Tax On Families Of Prisoners

How much do you pay for a 19 minute phone call? $1.90 at most, but probably a lot less. However, if you have a loved one in a New York State prison, a 19 minute phone call from him or her will cost you $6. Many prison families end up paying $300 or more each month to keep in touch with an incarcerated family member.

Family members cannot call a prisoner directly, and the only way prisoners can call out is by calling collect. The only company they can call through is MCI. And guess who gets 57.5% of the gross profits on each call? The government of New York State.

This is one more way that Governor Pataki and New York State attempt to balance the budget, while at the same time telling us that they have lowered taxes. The only tax that gets lowered from time to time is the income tax. Meanwhile the sales tax, property taxes, and user fees continue to go up.

In ancient times, sometimes an entire family was punished for one member’s crime. It seems to me that New York State has embraced the old tribal concept that “the sins of the fathers must be visited upon the children.” While prisoners deserve punishment, their families don’t. Life for families who have a family member in prison is hard enough.

Today, as they do on the 16th of every month, many prison families will be boycotting the state and MCI, by refusing to accept phone calls from prisoners. The idea is to send a message to MCI and New York State.

But the only real solution to the problem is legislation, and there is a bill in the State Assembly, the Family Connections Bill (A 7231) which would end this hidden tax on families of prisoners.

If this situation bothers you as it does me, you can sign a petition on-line or send an e-mail to the Governor to support the Family Connections Bill.


  • Just out of curiosity, can inmates not accept prepaid calling cards like those sold at major retailers? Can they not use these to call loved ones for 3-5 cents per minute?

    By Blogger Roman Hokie, at 8:22 AM  

  • My understanding is that prisoners can only call collect. They cannot have prepaid cards. I believe this is due to security reasons. Prisoners have been known to scam people on the outside using the telephone. My guess is that it is not so easy to scam someone when they get a collect call.

    By Blogger Dan Weaver, at 7:03 AM  

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