FCC Proposes Further Reform on Prison Phone Rates
September 26, 2014 - Posted by Julie Faust
Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler and Commissioner Mignon Clyburn on September 27 issued a joint statement announcing that they are circulating proposals to their fellow commissioners on further prison phone rate reform.
Wheeler and Clyburn said that while recent reforms have reduced long-distance inmate calling costs by 40 percent, “many families of inmates still face exorbitant rates for in-state calls, not to mention punitive and irrational fees – all of which make the simple act of staying in touch unaffordable.”
“Predatory prison phone rates not only harm families economically, they undermine a supportive network for inmates, which in turn makes our communities less safe,” said Cheryl Leanza, policy advisor at United Church of Christ and co-chair of The Leadership Conference media and telecommunications task force. “We are pleased to see that the Commission is proposing to reform local telephone rates and to take further action to eliminate the subsidy of our prisons and jails via telephone rates.”
These reforms are important to the civil rights community because high prison phone rates place an unfair financial burden not only on prisoners, but also on their families and loved ones. According to an October 2013 report by The Leadership Conference Education Fund, in-person visits are often too expensive for the families of prisoners who may be incarcerated hundreds of miles away, leaving phone calls as “the most reliable and practical method of maintaining relationships with parents, children, spouses, siblings, and friends.”
Earlier this year, the FCC enacted several prison phone rate reforms, including a cap on interstate collect calls of 25-cents-per-minute. The FCC also banned prison phone-service providers from charging extra fees to connect a call or to use a calling card.