bettyyu's blog

¡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. 


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.

Why PEG and Community Access Television is a Media Justice Fight

By Betty Yu, Center for Media Justice (an original blog post for NAMAC's policy salon) 

My journey to the media justice movement actually started with my involvement in a local Public Access television station over 17 years ago.  When I was in high school, I became actively involved with a local Chinatown workers center, Chinese Staff & Workers Association, a 30-year old organization that has been in the frontline of labor organizing.  Hundreds of immigrant garment and restaurant workers were fighting against exploitative working conditions, but their courageous voices were being blacked out of the corporate media and even the local Chinese press.  The local Chinese dailies relied on labor law-breaking restaurants for large advertisements dollars so they didn’t want to rock the boat.  So in the mid-90’s with very little positive press attention, the organization decided to start their own Public Access Television show to provide a platform for workers to create and tell their own stories. 

Resistance is in the Airwaves: By Any Media Necessary

By Betty Yu, Center for Media Justice / Reposted from

As I wind down my adventures at the South By Southwest’s (SXSW) Interactive Festival in Austin, Texas this week, I reflect on the fact that the most powerful and poignant moments  didn’t actually take place in halls of the Convention Center.  The Media Action Grassroots Network (MAG-Net)Brown Paper Tickets, and Prometheus Radio Project co-hosted a Sunday brunch with a half a dozen local groups located in and around Austin who were interested in taking advantage of a once in the lifetime opportunity to start a Lower Power radio station thanks to the Local Community Radio Act that was passed back in December 2010.  Prometheus Radio Project led a 10-year grassroots fight to win the Local Community Radio Act. The new law mandates the government to expand the Low Power FM (LPFM) service, creating the potential for thousands of new community based organizations to start radio station across the country, including availability for the first time in big cities!

March's Digital Dialogue: A Conversation about the Role of Arts and Culture in Movement Building

Listen Now! 

"A Dialogue about the Role of Arts and Culture in Movement Building"

Cook County phone contract costs inmates and families

by Rob Wildeboer, WBEZ 91.5
Inmates in the Cook County Jail have to pay severely inflated rates when they make phone calls from the jail. That's because Cook County has a contract that requires the phone company to pay almost 60 percent of what it makes from phone calls back to the county.  It's a subject we started looking at yesterday and if you missed that story you can hear what kind of impact the policy is having on poor families by clicking here.

Want to Start a Radio Station? We Want to Help!

By Steven Renderos, Center for Media Justice

We now have the opportunity of a lifetime to empower our communities through radio. The Federal Communications Commission has just voted to clear the airwaves and expand community radio across the U.S.! This is our chance to own media that reflects our voices, culture, and stories.

The time is now to take back our the airwaves, SIGN UP NOW to start your own radio station!

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