On Oct. 24, U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) emphasized the importance of ensuring every American’s access to telecommunications, arguing that “defending telecoms rights is inextricably interwoven with the fight to protect many of the other rights we hold dear,” while speaking at the 41st Annual Everett C. Parker Lecture & Awards Ceremony.
At the event, which honors the legacy of a civil rights pioneer who tirelessly advocated for the public’s rights in broadcasting, Duckworth received an award for her work writing, pushing forward and passing the Martha Wright-Reed Just and Reasonable Communications Act. Her legislation—which President Biden signed into law earlier this year—applies the ethical imperative of Dr. Parker’s work to America’s incarceration system, empowering the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to finally end the predatory phone call rate scheme that all too often prevented incarcerated people from staying in touch with their families.
“Everyone deserves to have access to the telecommunications they need to keep them healthy, heard and whole,” Duckworth said. “That’s one reason why I was so grateful to receive the Everett C. Parker Award this morning, and it’s why I will never stop working to ensure that every American’s voice can be heard—no matter their zip code, no matter their incarceration status, no matter what.”
Duckworth’s bipartisan legislation is named after the late Martha Wright-Reed, who advocated for more affordable phone rates for more than 20 years. After Wright-Reed’s grandson became incarcerated and she discovered how expensive it was to keep in contact with him, she sued the Corrections Corporation of America for their exorbitantly high phone call rates. The FCC first announced it would cap interstate prison phone call rates in 2013 after years of hard work by Martha Wright-Reed and other advocates. More information on the Martha Wright-Reed Just and Reasonable Communications Act is available here.