Blog Archive - April 2012

¡Wachale! CISPA Moves to the Senate. Why communities of color should care.

By amalia deloney, Center for Media Justice (cross posted from

Yesterday, the House of Representatives voted to approve the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act —a bill that would allow private companies to pass sensitive information and user data (from your emails, Texts, Tweet, etc.) to the government.

Reduced Prison Phone Rates Pave the Road to Rehabilitation

By Leticia Miranda (this piece was co-authored with Clarissa Ramon, Outreach and Government Affairs Associate at Public Knowledge.) This blog is cross-posted with the New America Foundation.

Chris Duran understands the value of a phone call. Duran pays roughly $2.80 for a 15-minute phone call to talk with her partner who is incarcerated at a detention center in Albuquerque, New Mexico. That same call in Colorado would be $5.00, the difference is attributed to the unregulated prison phone rate system. Phone companies will often include high commissions to state prisons within contracts in exchange for being the exclusive service provider. The rate of these commissions inflates the cost of phone calls for families in states that have failed to regulate this practice.

Many times expensive phone calls create a barrier between a prisoner and their family's ability to stay connected and provide crucial support for loved ones. Luckily for Duran, she and her partner live in one of the eight reformed states that have ended the practice of  commissions.  New Mexico’s rates are relatively low;  prisoners are  charged roughly$.20 a minute to talk with loved ones.  “The only way that our family stays together and stands out is that she has someone to call on the outs who loves her,” said Duran in avideo recorded last year by theMedia Literacy Project in Albuquerque, New Mexico. “Really that’s the only way we have to stay in contact, through the PCS phone system.” For Duran’s partner and others behind bars, phone calls can mean the difference between maintaining relationships that make leading a healthy life outside of prison or falling into a cycle of moving in and out of prison.

Research suggests that prisoners who maintain contact with family or friends fare better upon release than those who do not maintain contact. A 2005 report by the Anne E. Casey Foundation found that families are a person’s first and last resort for housing and support when released from prison.  The prison system considers a prisoner’s return home to their parents, children, partner or other family members to be the primary reentry plan upon release. It’s crucial that prisoners maintain connections with loved ones for support and to adequately prepare for reentry into their communities upon release. Whether or not a system ensures that prisoners are adequately prepared for reentry has an impact on whether or not they will return to the system.

The average U.S. recidivism rate lingers around 40 percent. According to a surveyconducted by Pew and the Associate of State Correctional Administrators, 43 percent of released prisoners in 2004 were re-incarcerated within 3 years for new offenses or parole violations. Between 1973 and 2009, the nation’s prison population grew by 705 percent, resulting in more than 10 percent of adults behind bars.

Not only do high incarceration and recidivism rates affect families,  they also affect taxpayers whose taxes fund a portion of state prison budgets, according to the Vera Institute of Justice. Annual state and federal spending on corrections exploded by 305 percent, or 52 billion people, during the past two decades. During that same period, corrections spending doubled as a share of state funding and accounts for 1 in 14 general state fund dollars, according to the Pew Center on the States.

These astonishing trends incited various prison justice advocacy efforts and drew the attention of conservative lawmakers whose shrinking budgets have caused them to re-evaluate how correction dollars are spent. For example, South Carolina’s prison population tripled over 25 years and was projected to grow by more than 3,200 inmates by 2014. Conservative groups like Right on Crime, a partnership between the Texas Public Policy Foundation and Pat Nolan Prison Fellowship,worked on passing a prison reform package along with former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. The initiative ultimately gained the support of justice advocacy groups like the ACLU.

Prison reform advocates recognized that over half of the state's population was incarcerated for nonviolent crimes. They found that the state could save $350 million by adjusting sentences for nonviolent offenses and targeting barriers prisoners face upon release. Within the past years, all 19 states that cut their imprisonment rates also experienced a decline in their crime rates, according to the Pew Center. It’s clear that a dollar invested in rehabilitation yields a greater return by keeping released prisoners out of the system and reducing the correction costs for states over time.

Congress also targeted this country’s high recidivism rate by passing the Second Chance Act in 2008. This piece of legislation authorizes government funds for nonprofits and agencies that would improve the conditions facing prisoners upon their release. These programs use resources for housing, employment, substance abuse treatment, continuing education and family programming. Reducing recidivism saves taxpayer dollars in the long run and reduces prison populations which would alleviate a prison system’s dependence on funds collected from commissions.

A policy reform that should be addressed by both states and the FCC is ensuring that prisoners can stay connected with the loved ones by keeping phone costs low. Other states can follow the lead of the eight reformed states and outlaw the practice of commissions. The FCC can also regulate interstate phone rates which would lower the costs for families, enabling them to stay better connected.  “Throughout the time I was in the system I had a really strong support system with my family,” said Duran. “The only way I could stay in contact with my family was through the phone.” She was released in 2002 and has been able to stay out of the detention system. 


Why We All Need to Care about Accelerated Attacks on Internet Free Speech, Privacy and Security…It’s a Civil Rights Issue

By Betty Yu, CMJ Network Manager

Last week I was sitting at our Media Action Grassroots (MAG-Net) Annual Retreat and Meeting when I learned about the FBI's seizure of an Internet Server shared by Riseup Networks and May First/People Link (MFPL) in New York City that had just happened on April 18th. 

MAG-Net’s 2012 Annual Retreat: Sustaining a Powerful Network in our Media Justice Movement

By Betty Yu, CMJ Network Manager 

“The right to free speech means little without the means to be heard.” 

Bryan Mercer, Media Mobilizing Project (MAG-Net Anchor, Philadelphia Region)

Day 4 of the MAG-Net Anchors Retreat: Presented by Rusita Avila


We came together from across the nation.  We brought with us our own networks and shared our culture in the opening ceremony of setting the altar.

– Rusita Avila, MLP, Albuquerque, NM (Day1 of the MAG-Net Anchors Initiative)


MAG-Net Anchors Meeting Day 3: Presented by Laura Muraida

MAG-Net Anchors Meeting Day 3: Network Strategy & Story

“We got our story on today”

Today’s agenda shifted the focus from network structure and governance to strategizing about MAG-Net’s priorities and messaging.

Kicking off the day with compelling cultural spotlights from three MAG-Net anchors helped set the tone for our discussion of values, motivations, and stories. 

Today was a day of visioning and creativity– from describing the values that have built up our respective organizations, to tackling strategic plans for the network’s future, to sharing our stories and visions through strategic messaging. It was a productive day and especially helpful for me as a new co-anchor.  

Local Music Week 2012 in San Antonio

By Ernesto Olivo, of Local 782 (member of San Antonio MAG-Net Chapter)

Putting on an event and organizing can be very rewarding. It has been, for us, and it is why we continue to do the work. Local 782 has continuously organized musicians and has hosted workshops since 2008. We advocate for musicians and how media and technology shapes their freedom to be independent artists. This year we organized Local Music Week 2012 (LMW2012), which makes it the 3rd annual one for us. It was all put together by volunteers in our community. This has probably been our highest achievement to date.

Day Two of the MAG-Net Anchors Retreat: Presented by Sage Crump

Day 2 of the MAG-Net Anchors Retreat: Network Purpose and Governance  

(Trust me.  It’s a much sexier conversation than you would anticipate.)

MAG-Net Anchors Retreat Day One: Presented by Carol Ammons

What a way to open an event - for some who’ve never met and others who are reuniting under the umbrella of connectivity and unity.   Food!  As stated by a great philosopher,  “Nothing would be more tiresome than eating and drinking if God had not made them a pleasure as well as a necessity."

Pedro Joel, IDEPSCA, on the Fight for Workers' Rights and MAG-Net

Instituto de Educación Popular del Sur de California (IDEPSCA) is a non-profit community-based educational organization whose mission is create a more humane and democratic society by responding to issues that affect low-income immigrant families concerned with solving problems in their own communities. Since 1984, our commitment to worker, immigrant, non-immigrant, and youth rights has been present through educational programs based on Popular Education methodology.