Corporations That Scam Prisoners on Phone Calls Just Took a Huge Blow

The Federal Communications Commission voted Thursday to cut the cost of phone calls in prisons, which have played an integral role in the rise of the multi-billion dollar prison phone industry in recent years.

The move, which blocks companies from charging as much as $14 per minute, was hailed as a major step forward by prison reform groups who say that the costs had become an unjust burden for prisoners and their families.

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"I applaud the FCC for taking this momentous step towards reducing the costs that families have to pay in order to connect with their families. Sometimes visiting is not an option and the next best thing is hearing the voice of a loved one," Devin D. Coleman, a formerly incarcerated organizer with the social justice non profit Florida New Majority wrote in a statement sent to ATTN:.

Prison Cell Block

"Because of today's FCC decision many families across the country will be able to change, overcome and heal together," Coleman added.

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The FCC ruling eliminates some fees and limits others that phone companies have added to calls between inmates and their families. Companies can now charge no more than $1.65 for 15-minute interstate calls, and face a tiered pay rate structure for the type and size of prisons. The new rules span smaller local jails, where costs can be higher, to state and federal prisons and immigrant detention centers.

Female prison guard

Phone companies that control prison phone communications have been criticized for giving "kickbacks" to prison companies to win contracts, according to a letter sent to FCC chairman Thomas Wheeler last week by a number of Democratic senators, including Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont). "What may come as a financial benefit to institutions comes at serious social cost, since many incarcerated people find the high costs of calling home prohibitive, and the high rates can prevent them from keeping in touch with loved ones," the Senators wrote.

In 2013, $460 million in concession fees—which the senators described as kickbacks—was paid to jails and prisons, as well as to state, county, and local governments, as the New York Times reported earlier this year.

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Posted by ATTN: on Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The move cracks the monopoly phone service providers have over the means of communications between prisoners and families, who often had no other choice for contacting loved ones and dealt with exorbitant fees. According to a report by compiled by more than 20 social and criminal justice organizations entitled, "Who Pays? The True Cost of Mass Incarceration," prohibitive costs associated with phone calls and visits contributed to more than 1 in three families with incarcerated members going into debt trying to maintain contact. Research included in the report also points to the destructive effect a lack of contact can have on recidivism rates, as well as the mental health of families with an incarcerated member.

"The impact of this vote will help keep families out of poverty so that their incarcerated loved ones re-entering society can have more stable foundations. Keeping families connected with their incarcerated loved ones is key to reversing the impact of mass incarceration on our communities," Alivia Walters, movement building director of the social justice group Forward Together and a co-author of the study, wrote in a statement.

The ruling, she said, "is a win for strengthening families especially in the communities of color and low-income communities most deeply affected.

A spokesperson from one phone company, Securus Technologies, told NBC that the "FCC made a colossal error in judgment, law, and public safety and policy," explaining that new caps to phone call rates do not cover the company's costs.

The Unbelievable Cost of a Prison Phone Call

The Unbelievable Cost of a Prison Phone Call

Posted by ATTN: on Friday, March 27, 2015


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