I’ve been thinking about the things I do on my cell phone in an average day that are possible because it has a data plan that affords Internet access. I create, modify, and track appointments and meetings. I set reminders for tasks. I seek out information on local products and services and verify hours of operation. I check traffic and weather conditions, review transit schedules, and plan routes. I send and receive email, communicating with my employer, colleagues, family, and friends. I update and review social media. I stay informed of current affairs and the news of the day. I manage my bank and credit accounts.

On March 31st, The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced major modernization initiatives for the Lifeline program. Since 1985, the Lifeline program has provided discounted landline phone service for qualifying low-income consumers. In 2005, Lifeline discounts were extended to wireless phone service. Building on modernization initiatives beginning in 2012, the FCC has now adopted an Order that allows Lifeline support for mobile broadband Internet access.

The overwhelming majority of the things I listed above that I routinely do on my cell phone are mostly a matter of convenience. They are things I want to do in that moment. However, for citizens returning to their communities from incarceration, the ability to do these things could help them maintain a path to successful reentry. These individuals have a great many things that they have to do, and a great many things that they need to do, along with things that they want to do. Returning citizens have to abide by the conditions of their release, which can include such things as having to maintain gainful employment. Doing that can involve finding jobs, submitting resumes, responding to emails, scheduling job interviews, and exchanging documents. Other things that returning citizens often have to do are paying fines, fees, and restitution, and having to make regular visits with a community supervision supervisor. Returning citizens oftentimes need to get a driver’s license or state issued identification, need to manage their income to successfully support themselves and their families, and need the ability to keep up with various appointments and tasks. Returning citizens want the help of social and family supports, and to leave the stigma of incarceration behind, and become stable contributing members of their communities.

The latest Lifeline modernization initiative can afford the returning citizen the opportunity to use modern telecommunications services in support of what they have, need, and want to do, improving the likelihood of successful reentry and breaking the cycle of recidivism.

See the FCC Press Release here (PDF)