The families of the more than two million men, women, and children behind bars in America found something to cheer about earlier this year when the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) set new caps on interstate rates for telephone calls from prisoners, an effort spearheaded by Prison Legal News‘s tireless advocacy. Whereas contract providers like Global Tel Link and others charged up to $20.00 or more for a 15-minute phone call from prison, the new FCC prison phone rates are capped at 24 cents per minute for prepaid calls and 25 cents a minute for collect calls.
While the FCC rates have been a boon to federal prisoners’ families hundreds or thousands of miles away from their incarcerated loved ones, the FCC’s ruling on such calls does not even cover an even larger segment of the market: the in-state calls made by state prisoners. Now, in New Jersey, a local call might cost a prisoner as much as $8.00, when a long-distance call might cost $3.00.
FCC Interim Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn has called for additional review of this truck-sized loophole in the new regulations, and said that the FCC has the “duty and the authority to act under the [relevant] statute if the states do not.” Her agency is presently calling on the states to do just that, voluntarily. In response, Alabama recently moved to cap its in-state prison phone rates at 25 cents a minute.
To learn more about this developing story, read the National Journal‘s article “Despite New Rules, Prisoners Still Paying Big to Call Home.”
Unfair and overpriced phone rates are making communication between millions of inmates and their families difficult. And that hurts not just them, but society at large. Jacob Soboroff is joined by guests Ava DuVernay, Emayatzy Corinealdi, Steven Renderos, Alex Friedman, Amir Varick Amma, and Bethany Fraser to discuss.