New Rate Caps for Prison Phone Calls

jail-phone-640x480-140x140Prison and jail phone calls, which typically cost much more than non-prison calls. Loved ones and friends have had to pay up $1 per minute to talk to an incarcerated parent.  This is because many prisons and jails profit by granting monopoly telephone contracts to the company that will charge families the most.

Prison phone contracts are based on a “site commission” (kickback) model where the phone service provider pays a portion of their revenue to the contracting prison jail. These kickbacks inflate the costs of prison and jail phone calls typically paid by family members.

For more than ten years, families had been calling on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to provide relief from the exorbitant bills that the prison phone companies charge just to stay in touch.  While contact between inmates and their loved ones has been shown to reduce the rate of recidivism, high inmate calling rates have made that contact unaffordable for many families, who often live in poverty.

On October 22, 2015, the FCC acted on its mandate to ensure that rates for phone calls are just, reasonable and fair for all Americans, including people trying to stay in touch with loved ones serving time in jail or prison.  The FCC capped rates for local and in-state long-distance inmate calling, and cut its existing cap on interstate long-distance calls by up to 50 percent and closed loopholes by barring most add-on fees imposed by inmate calling service (ICS) providers, and setting strict limits on the few fees that remain.

Extra fees and charges can increase the cost of families staying in touch by phone with loved ones who are incarcerated by as much as 40%.  Reducing the cost of these calls measurably increases the amount of contact between inmates and their loved ones, making an important contribution to the criminal justice reforms sweeping the nation.

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