INFOGRAPHIC: FCC’s Steps to Further Reform Prison Payphone Rates Will Benefit Millions of Families

by Maria Lesinski on November 13, 2014

Prison Inmate PayphonesThe Federal Communications Commission recently adopted a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in continued efforts to proscribe excessive inmate calling rates. America’s prison systems have been plagued by high prison phone rates for far too long, and this FCC action, building upon the pioneering work of FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, is another step toward ensuring families of the incarcerated aren’t unfairly charged to keep in touch with their loved ones.

Nationwide, states collect more than $150 million per year from prison phone commissions. Families of the incarcerated pay nearly ten times the price of a normal call in order to contact loved ones behind bars. A fifteen-minute call may cost families up to $18. This means that a mere one-hour call per week can accumulate costs more than $280 a month. 

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Phone calls are an important part of life to a prison inmate. For example, such calls are often a pathway to rehabilitation. If an inmate is incarcerated far from his or her family, this may be the only form of contact. Studies show that enhanced contact between families greatly reduces the chances of re-incarceration upon release. Beyond this, inmates use these calling services to contact legal representation.

MMTC has long held that reforms of the high cost of phone calls for incarcerated individuals are needed. The cost of inmate calls should be fairly priced, and not a means to increase revenues for prisons.

MMTC has praised the efforts the FCC has made by adopting a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that seeks additional comment on further ways to constrain and ultimately eliminate predatory costs associated with inmate calling services. According to MMTC President Emeritus David Honig, “The burden of staying connected with loved ones in prison falls heaviest on families with the least ability to pay, often forcing them to make harrowing choices between maintaining communication or putting food on the table.”

Unreasonably high prison phone rate practices reflect poorly on the moral stature of the telephone industry and diminish public confidence in the industry, especially among the underserved. MMTC believes the loved ones of incarcerated individuals, and the inmates themselves, are entitled to fair calling prices. We plan follow this issue, fighting for the rights of inmates and families.

The Minority Media and Telecommunications Council (MMTC) is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting and preserving equal opportunity and civil rights in the mass media, telecommunications and broadband industries, and closing the digital divide. MMTC is generally recognized as the nation’s leading advocate for minority advancement in communications.

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