We the undersigned respectfully submit this petition and ask The Honorable Governor Rick Perry, The Texas Legislature, and TDCJ Officials to introduce, support, and pass legislation and regulations allowing international phone calls to be made from prison units at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice prisons as well as consider any other law that may strengthen strong family and community ties as the best way to improve public safety, reduce recidivism reduce taxpayer expenses.
Each month, eligible TDCJ inmates are allowed to make calls to a pre-approved number, either pre-paid or paid for by the inmate's spouse and family. Calls are 15 minutes in length and the inmate is allowed, at present, 240 minutes per month. There is a Bill going through the Texas Legislature that will allow for 480 minutes of phone calls. If an offender runs out of minutes before the end of the month, no more phone calls will be allowed until the next month.
Offenders whose family members live outside the U.S. are NOT permitted to make phone calls to their families unless approved by the warden and only for 5 minutes every 3 months. In their General Information Guide for Families, TDCJ claims: “The mission of the TDCJ is to provide public safety, promote positive change in offender behavior, reintegrate offenders into society and assist victims of crime. TDCJ looks forward to friends and family members also providing support for their loved-ones.”
Family ties are incredibly important to maintain in order to reduce recidivism and increase public safety. Too often, families are destroyed because a parent or child is in prison. Nearly 3 million children have at least one parent in prison. These children are 6 times more likely to be incarcerated than other youth, according to public health studies. Of all the factors that help inmates after their release, an intact family is the most important in helping them stay on the right path.
Research shows that when inmates have a supportive family, they are more likely to find a job, less likely to use drugs, and less likely to be involved in criminal activities. The support and accountability that a stable family provides have a clear, positive impact. Studies also show that children of inmates who are able to visit and communicate with their parents have increased cognitive skills, improved academic self-esteem, and greater self control, and they change schools much less often. The improvement of the children has an amazing impact on the incarcerated parent, too, with significantly reduced recidivism of the parent after release.
In the Second Chance Act of 2007, the U.S. Congress published findings indicating that strong family and community ties were the best indicators for success upon release. Unfortunately, the members of Congress also found that prison administrators did not make use of this resource.
TDCJ states that “phone calls are a privilege not a right” yet inmates with family living outside the U.S. are being denied the very privilege TDC insists is so crucial. When calls are being paid for by the family member living outside of the U.S., and costing nearly 10 times the rate of a call made within the U.S., what’s does it matter to TDC if that inmate is calling Texas, Ireland or Canada? It’s on their dime.
If you have a loved one currently incarcerated in TDCJ and/or you live outside of the U.S. please read and sign this petition.
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