In a time when consumer advocates warn to avoid filing your taxes on paper, people in prison and jail have no alternative. Want to monitor your credit history to guard against identity theft? It takes a few minutes online; unless you’re in prison, in which case you’ll have to mail a paper form to the credit bureaus and hope that the response makes it through the prison mailroom. Need to apply for a state-issued ID, student financial aid, public assistance, or just about anything else? Most often you’ll be directed to a website, but if you’re incarcerated you’ll need to keep turning over proverbial rocks, searching for a paper-based option.
After years of deliberation, the Postal Regulatory Commission issued a massive ruling in late November, establishing a new system that most experts warn will result in faster-growing postage rates.
When other potential rate-drivers are taken into account, USPS could seek a mid-year price hike of around 5.5%. Based on the current first-class rate of 55c for a one-ounce letter, a 5.5% increase would be around 3c, but under the USPS’s ill-advised rounding policy (which we strongly opposed), the increase would be rounded up to the nearest five cents, potentially resulting in a new price of 60c to mail a letter. That’s about equal to the average hourly wage earned by incarcerated people in non-prison-industry certified jobs.
Unlike the criminal justice system, where power and decision-making is spread over hundreds of jurisdictions, postal policy is ultimately controlled by one body: Congress. There are currently moves in Congress to address mismanagement of the USPS, but when debating postal reform measures, lawmakers need to hear the unique burdens faced by incarcerated people.
Currently, there are two ways you can tell Congress to act. You can support efforts to remove Postmaster DeJoy, and you can tell your members of Congress to act immediately to improve the USPS finances without extracting more money from incarcerated people and their families.
Read the full article about postal rates by Stephen Raher at Prison Policy Initiative.
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