In Philadelphia and nationwide, fines and fees in the criminal legal system burden low-income families and communities of color. The high cost of communication from prison prevents family connectedness, increases the risk of recidivism, and creates additional challenges for those returning home. Court costs impose financial barriers that can lead to reincarceration.
The City of Philadelphia is working towards a safer and more equitable city by removing barriers to successful re-entry and economic mobility such as excessive fines and fees. As part of that work, the Office of Community Empowerment and Opportunity (CEO) released a report today that highlights our progress so far, the results of a recent survey, and the next steps for the work ahead.
Among 192 respondents to the survey, 97 percent had experienced incarceration or a conviction and 66 percent had a loved one who had experienced incarceration or a conviction. Below are some of our findings.
As a result of CEO's advocacy, The City of Philadelphia is now taking steps to eliminate commissary charges, expand the number of minutes available for free phone calls, and offer one free hour of videoconferencing per week, but this is just the beginning. Over the next year, the City's working group will work with the Philadelphia Department of Prisons to further assess if these reforms meet the communication needs of those incarcerated locally by tracking communication usage rates and continuing to survey the incarcerated population.
Read the full report to see what additional steps we are taking and how you can get involved.