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Punishment & Profit: Telecom

Punishment & Profit

Originally Aired: Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Available for viewing

Overview

The $1.4 billion prison telecom industry is dominated by three corporations, all owned by private equity firms, and advancing new, costly communication services (which can charge up to $1 a minute for each call). But momentum is building for federal, state and local legislation that could dramatically reduce the cost of prison and jails calls, and in some cases make them entirely free. Join us to learn more about the impact of communication on families and the efforts to connect families from guests Anne Stuhldreher, Director of The Financial Justice Project in San Francisco, policy and politics journalist Rachel Cohen, and activists for prison phone justice Ulandis Forte and Diane Lewis.

Worth Rises’ Executive Director Bianca Tylek hosts.

 

Leadership support for The Greene Space’s Artist-in-Residence program is provided by:

MetLife

Worth Rises is a non-profit advocacy organization dedicated to dismantling the prison industry and ending the exploitation of those it touches. The organization exposes the commercialization of the criminal legal system and advocates and organizes to protect and return the economic resources extracted from affected communities and strip the industry of its power. Through this work, Worth Rises is helping to clear the road toward a safe and just world free of police and prisons. Find out more at worthrises.org.

Credit: Photo provided by guest

Bianca is the Founder and Executive Director of Worth Rises, combining her direct experience with the criminal legal system and expertise in financial and legal services to challenge the prison industry.

Before founding Worth Rises in 2017, Bianca was a legal fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice, where she investigated the perverse financial incentives created by correctional funding. Previously, Bianca also worked with various state and local corrections agencies, including New York City, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts. Most notably, in New York City, she drafted the young adult plan that eliminated solitary confinement for young adults 21 years old and younger—a first in the nation.

Bianca has also consulted to the Association of State Correctional Administrators and worked for the Campaign to End Mass Incarceration at the American Civil Liberties Union. Bianca co-founded College Pathways at Rikers Island, a preparation program for incarcerated students interested in pursuing higher education. 

Before committing her career to the struggle for justice, Bianca worked as a financial analyst at Citigroup and Morgan Stanley. 

Bianca has been honored as a Draper Rickard Kaplan Entrepreneur, Art for Justice Fellow, TED Fellow, Equal Justice Works Fellow, Harvard University Presidential Public Service Fellow, Ford Foundation Public Interest Fellow, Paul & Daisy Soros New American Fellow, and an Education Pioneers Analyst Fellow. Bianca holds a B.A. from Columbia University and a J.D. from Harvard Law School.

Anne Struhldreher

Credit: Photo provided by guest

Anne Stuhldreher is the Director of The Financial Justice Project in the Office of the Treasurer for the City and County of San Francisco.  San Francisco is the first city in the nation to launch a Financial Justice Project to assess and reform fines, fees, and financial penalties that have a disproportionate and adverse impact on people with low incomes and communities of color.  The Financial Justice Project has worked with city departments and the courts to adjust or eliminate dozens of fines and fees, lifting tens of millions of dollars in debt off of tens of thousands of people.

Rachel Cohen

Credit: Photo provided by guest

Rachel Cohen (@rmc031) is a D.C. based freelance journalist where she covers a range of policy and political issues, with a particular focus on labor, education, housing and criminal justice. Her work has been published in many outlets including The Atlantic, The Washington Post, The Intercept and The Appeal.

Ulandis Forte

Credit: Photo provided by guest

Ulandis Forte is the grandson of Ms. Martha Wright-Reed and life long native resident of Washington DC. At the age of 20, Ulandis was incarcerated at Lorton Correctional Facility and was relocated several times to prisons in Ohio, Kentucky, Virginia, New Mexico, Kansas, and Pennsylvania. Phone calls were his lifeline to his family, especially to his beloved elderly grandmother who was unable to visit due to the long distances. He became an activist inside, supporting his grandmother’s fight to reduce the cost of prison phone calls. He has continued to lead the fight for prison phone justice on behalf of all incarcerated people and their families who are vulnerable to the greedy prison phone industry. This past June, he supported the introduction of the Ms. Martha Wright-Reed Just & Reasonable Communication Act, which would restore the FCC authority to regulate state and local prison phone calls.

Diane Lewis is a community advocate based in Hartford, Connecticut, who has supported countless incarcerated loved ones. She is a steering committee member of the Connecticut Connecting Families coalition, which is fighting to make communication from Connecticut’s prisons free. Diane is also a member of Voices of Women of Color.

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