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Phone companies charge more for inmate phone calls

July 20, 2016

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  • The Federal Communications Commission’s decision to let prison phone rate caps increase was upheld by a federal appeals court in March 2016. Phone companies will be able to charge as much as 11 cents to 22 centers per minute per phone call provided the court stays the decision after court reviewing appeals from phone companies. These companies allege that the caps will leave them unable to pay for “in site commissions” to prison facilities. Chairman of the FCC Tom Wheeler and FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn have drafted a proposal in order to satisfy both telephone companies and inmates in this case. They suggested a cap from 13 cents to 31 cents per minute which would apply to calls regardless of where they are placed and where they direct to, and after 2 years will also apply to collect calls.

    Additionally, smaller prisons will have higher phone rate caps; prisons with less than 350 inmates could see rate caps of 31 cents per minute while prisons with more than 1,000 inmates will see a maximum of 19 cents per minute for calls. This proposal won’t eliminate commissions or set a cap on the amount prisons can charge telephone companies like Global Tele*Link and Securus Technologies for access to sites. The final decision will be made by the court on August 4th. Until then, an interim cap of 21 cents per minute on debit and prepaid calls has been established, though this only applies to calls made from one state to another. The FCC also successfully established new limits on charges related to prison phone calls: phone companies will only be able to charge a maximum of $3 for automated payments through a website or the phone, $2 for paper payments, and $5.95 for a payment through an company employee. These measure alleviates pressure on families who often have to shell out hundreds of dollars to speak to their incarcerated loved ones.

    Related article: Ending Mass Incarceration is a Big Political Talking Point 

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