You may have heard about the 2013 settlement that AT&T Settlement made with Washington State families who paid exorbitant prices to talk to family members in state prisons between 1996 and 2000. If you are a member of one of those families, you might have gotten a portion of the $45 million awarded.
Families were charged $3.95 for the first minute and 90 cents each additional minute. After 20 minutes, the calls were disconnected and new calls, with new first-minute fees, were required. Lawyers during the trial said at least three families had bills of $20,000 from these calls, and other families spent $10,000, according to The Seattle Times.
The Legal Foundation of Washington Administers and Oversees Grants
At least 70,000 families had these fees returned and received an additional $200 – if they heard about the settlement and filed for their portion. I’ve been writing about the Legal Foundation of Washington (LFW), why I serve the foundation and how we get our money. A good portion of the money that LFW distributes to legal services statewide comes from Cy Pres awards, which is unclaimed money from class action lawsuits like the Judd v. AT&T case. This case involved phone charges from 15 years ago, so some of the families could not be located. That resulted in millions of dollars unclaimed.
The King County Superior Court wanted to make sure the unclaimed money was used to fund non-profits that help prisoners and their families, so it appointed the LFW to administer $6.5 million in grants to those organizations.
Grant Recipients’ Service to Prisoners and their Families
The five organizations that will receive the largest grants, four for three consecutive years and the fifth (The STAR Project) for five years, are:
- Freedom Education Project Puget Sound
- University Beyond Bars
- Incarcerated Mothers Advocacy Project
- Northwest Justice Project’s RISE Program
- The STAR Project
Each link connects to the non-profit and information about the work it is doing. It pleases me to know that this unclaimed money will help families through programs that have common goals of reducing recidivism and reconnecting prisoners with families.