FCC says cost of prison phone calls too high
By Candace Bagwell
Black America Web
Experiencing life while a loved one is imprisoned can strain your emotions and relationships, but it shouldn't strain your pocketbook.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) found that the cost of phone calls from incarcerated friends and family members is at an all-time high, and they are committed to changing that. In a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, the FCC brought the issue to light, finding that most inmate calls are nearly 15 times more expensive than regular phone calls.
The problem initially came to the agency's attention after Martha Wright complained about her $200 a month phone bill in 2003. The Washington D.C. woman talked to her grandson who is in prison for 15-minutes on a weekly basis and became fed up with the costs.
Several civil rights groups joined together to back Wright's complaints by filing a civil-action lawsuit on her behalf. However, a judge dismissed the case and referred Wright to the FCC.
FCC Commissioner Mignon L. Clyburn says that since then, "tens of thousands of consumers" have "written, emailed, and yes, phoned the commission, pleading for relief on interstate long distance rates from correctional facilities."
Although unfamiliar to most phone users, Global Tel*Link and Securus Technologies Inc. are the two companies responsible for the majority of prison phone calls.
Steven Renderos, a national organizer for the Center for Media Justice says that the companies attribute their high rates to "the security features their technology has" including monitoring calls and blocking phone numbers.
However he believes that the technology alone is not enough to add up to $15 for a 15-minute call.
The Center for Media Justice reports that the rates for prison phone calls vary from state to state.
"For example, in Alabama the commission rate is 61.5 percent, and this translates to families having to pay 89 cents a minute on top of a $3.95 connection fee every time a family member receives a call," Rederos explained.
"Eight states have banned these commissions-California, South Carolina, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, Michigan and Missouri-and in those states you see some of the lowest rates for phone calls. For example Missouri charges 10 cents a minute for a long-distance phone call with a $1 connection fee. The average commission rate in states that haven't banned these commissions is 43 percent."
The FCC suggests that a "monopoly" is created when correctional institutions partner with ICS providers in an exclusive contract rather than offering traditional payphone services. In their notice, the agency also added that while most people can choose among multiple calling services, inmates are limited to phones operated by the contracted provider of the facility.
Clyburn suggests that the public should rally behind the FCC's action to lower rates for inmate calls in an effort to strengthen our community.
"Maintaining contact with family and friends during incarceration not only helps the inmate, but it is beneficial to our society as a whole. There are well over two million children with at least one parent behind bars and regardless of their circumstances, both children and parents gain from regular contact with one another. Studies also show that those released are less likely to reoffend if they are able to maintain relationships with their loved ones while they are in prison."
The FCC will receive responses about their proposal from the public for two months.
+ Top Story
Less than 48 hours before he was rushed to Chestnut Hill Hospital’s cardiac unit, Collins had been holding court at his spacious home in Laverock where he regularly hosted the annual summer social outing for the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists.
Mayor Michael A. Nutter, joined by City officials, announced a plan for the City of Philadelphia to borrow $50 million on behalf of the School District to ensure that the schools will open safely and on time for the 2013-14 school year. Prepared remarks below...
The picking at the Trayvon Martin wound in Black America’s heart and soul continues--as it should. A child is dead, a mother grieves, a community festers and the search for a credible outcome (even an incomplete one) is still ongoing. But reality is a cruel dictator. Nothing lasts forever.
NAACP Branch will hold a prayer vigil expressing the outrage on the Zimmerman verdict, the murder of Travon Martin and plans for future acts.
Long live the preacher; who also was the son and grandson of preachers. Long live the congressman who made history as the first African American Majority Whip of the U.S. House of Representatives, then the highest office any black official had ever achieved in our national government.
Cheerios commercials have a knack for being cute. Who remembers the little boy a few years ago singing “Nobody can say no to the honey nut oh in honey nut Cheerios, not your mama, not grandma, not even daddy…” I loved that commercial.
From now on, let’s call it for what it looks like- “Caucasian Network News,” because none of the 12 major correspondents featured in a recent full-color New York Times advertisement was African American or Hispanic. CNN’s latest featured line-up of news anchors now includes...
Our work doesn't stop at America's borders, and I want you to know what your support has made possible. In the wake of the devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti, the NAACP funded four projects with the $200,000 that incredible NAACP supporters like you donated to help the country rebuild.