GAITHERSBURG, Md. – Quinzy Fraser’s youngest son was 2 years old when Fraser drove drunk and slammed his vehicle into a bicyclist in 2010.
The victim died and Fraser was sentenced to 10 years in a Maryland prison.
The incident was so tragic and unexpected, Fraser’s wife, Bethany, wasn’t sure what to tell her two young boys, ages 2 and 7 at the time. In shock, she wasn’t even sure what to tell herself.
“You have to be in shock to get through some of those situations,” she said. “[My husband] was certainly able, willing, and wanting whatever punishment was going to come for whatever he did… You know, you do something, and you have to deal with the consequence, so this was the consequence.”
When she learned her husband would be going away to prison, she began to think of her two children, and whether they would be emotionally punished as a result of his absence.
So, Fraser did everything she could to keep them in touch with their father while he served out his sentence.
“Over time, I realized how important it was…to stay connected,” she said. “For me, if the kids are my core concern, they need to know that, ‘Hey, I do have a dad. He’s not here. He cares about me. What he did has nothing to do with me.’”
What she didn’t realize, however, was the financial price she would pay for keeping her children in contact with their father.
“I easily could have spent maybe up to $500 per month,” Fraser said of her phone bills after receiving calls from her husband in prison. “The hardest thing was when I knew he was calling and I couldn’t afford to get it.”
The high prices Fraser paid are not unlike the ones other family members across the country pay to to reach many of the 2.2 million people in U.S. prisons and jails.
The commissioners, who voted two years ago to place a 25 cents-per-minute cap only on out-of-state phone calls, will also consider whether to ban excessive fees and whether to discourage commissions paid by phone companies to jails and prisons.
Two major providers of contracts to jails and prisons, Securus, and Global Tel Link, are currently in a pending legal battle with the FCC regarding the 2013 regulations.
Although the commissions that jails and prisons receive vary around the country, more than 200 sheriffs wrote letters to the FCC earlier this year to defend the commissions they receive.
Some even suggested that an inmate’s access to jail phones could be limited or eliminated as a result of the FCC’s future actions.
Sheriff Dana Lawhorne of Alexandria, Virginia, said jails and prisons vary across the country when it comes to commissions, calling rates, and fees. Some are much higher than others, he said.
He defended the commissions he receives.
“Somebody making a telephone call to your house is far different than somebody making a telephone call from inside the jail,” Lawhorne said.