FCC moves to set inmate telephone rates nationwide

Published: Oct. 22, 2015 at 9:37 PM CDT|Updated: Nov. 5, 2015 at 10:39 PM CST
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(KSLA) - A decision was made Thursday by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to set rates for all telephone calls from jails and prisons across America.

With the cost of a call sometimes ballooning to $14 per minute once inside prison walls, the FCC for the first time capped rates for local and in-state long-distance calling, and cut its existing cap on interstate long-distance calls by up to 50 percent.

The rates range from a low of 11 cents a minute for calls from state or federal prisons to 22 cents a minute for calls from the smallest local jails holding up to 349 inmates.

"This is one instance where a federal takeover of local affairs makes sense," Louisiana Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell said. "Only a handful of states have had the courage to take on the inmate telephone companies and the politics associated with this industry.

"This FCC decision will affect Louisiana more than any other state, because we incarcerate more people per capita than any place on Earth. It will mean fair and just treatment for the families accepting calls from 40,000 inmates in state and local jails," said Campbell.

The action builds on reforms begun by the FCC in 2013, when it acted on a petition by  Martha Wright, a grandmother from Washington, D.C., for relief from the exorbitant rates she was paying to call her grandson in prison.

These reforms set an interim cap of 21 cents per minute on interstate debit and prepaid calls, required ICS providers to file cost data. In October 2014, the FCC sought comment on the data and proposed to reform all inmate calling rates and fees.

The Order adopted by the Commission Thursday acts on that data by lowering the cap to 11 cents per minute for all local and long distance calls from state and federal prisons, while providing tiered rates for jails to account for the higher costs of serving jails and smaller institutions.

According to the FCC, the new caps fully cover the enhanced security requirements of inmate calling, while allowing providers a reasonable return.

For more information on the key provision of the order, click here.

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