NEW YORK: MCI and the New York State Department of Correctional Services (NYDOCS) are the targets of a campaign protesting high rates for collect calls made from state prisons.
The Center for Constitutional Rights, a nonprofit legal and educational group, is working with M&R Strategic Services and GTM, a guerrilla-marketing firm, in an effort to spread the word about the "backdoor tax" on the families of incarcerated New Yorkers. Its "Campaign for Telephone Justice" aims to raise the visibility of the issue among the press and the public.
At issue is MCI's exclusive contract with the NYDOCS, signed in 1996. Its provisions include a $3 charge to initiate a call from prison, and a rate of 16 cents per minute. The state receives 57.5% of the gross revenues from MCI.
Jan Nessel, CCR's communication director, said that some families pay up to $700 a month for phone calls from prison. She also charged that the state chose MCI because it offered "the highest kickback."
MCI spokeswoman Natasha Haubold responded only that the company's services are "in compliance with the contract."
Daniel Klotz, M&R VP of media relations, said the effort began by targeting state legislators and local media in Albany, and then moved into the New York City area.
Among the tactics devised by M&R and GTM are telephone-cord bracelets - which are "going like hot cakes," said Nessel - and a just-erected billboard on 125th Street in New York that reads "WorldDom...a joint venture of MCI and the [NYDOCS] ... Robbing your communities of $25 million dollars [sic] a year."
The effort was financed by a $500,000 grant from the New York-based JEHT Foundation.