U.S. Federal Communications Commission Takes Crucial First Steps

U.S. Federal Communications Commission Takes Crucial First Steps Towards Eliminating Exorbitant Predatory Phone Rates For Federal State and County Prisoners and Their Families

One of the final moves of the year by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in 2012 was to issue a statement that it would consider a rule to reduce and cap the exorbitant phone rates paid by incarcerated people and their families.  Specifically, on December 28, 2012, the FCC announced a proposed rule to help the thousands of prisoners and their families who, it was found, generally pay significantly higher toll rates than those offered for the typical interstate long distance call, sometimes exceeding $3.00 per minute. 

For a variety of reasons, the telephone is a crucial instrument for the incarcerated, and those who care about them. Because telephones are for most incarcerated Americans, the only communications options available, millions would lose contact with their parents, their children, spouses or even their legal counsel.  Maintaining contact with family and friends during incarceration not only helps the inmate, but it is beneficial to our society as a whole. Studies show, and common sense dictates, that individuals released from prison are less likely to reoffend if they are able to maintain relationships with their loved ones while they are in prison. Furthermore, 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.

The FCC’s decision comes after the NAACP, working independently and with other groups across the political spectrum and from the religious, civil rights and human rights communities, advocated for a reduction and cap for over 10 years.  Costing up to 24 times a normal call, prison phone rates unfairly punish inmates’ families, who must pay for the calls.  Several states and local jurisdictions, including New York, Nebraska, and Cook County, Illinois have moved in recent times to curb the cost of prison phone calls as well.  As such, we applauds the FCC for taking this first steps to establish national policy banning these predatory phone rates, and we intend to work with the Commission as they move to make this rule permanent.

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