On February 11, the FCC’s new regulations to curb the predatory telephone charges for inmate’s families and friends were implemented. Before these new regulations were enacted, interstate phone calls between inmate’s families and their family members in prison were costing $1.00 or more a minute. The new rate caps are 25 cents for a collect call, 21 cents per minute for debit or prepaid calls, and no more than $3.75 for a 15-minute collect call and $3.15 for a 15-minute debit or prepaid calls. This common sense decision took ten long years.
In 2003, Martha Wright-Reed filed a petition asking the FCC to regulate the excessive inmate phone call rates. The petition was filed on behalf of inmate families after a judge had dismissed a lawsuit filed by her against a private prison company. She had filed the lawsuit because it was impossible to keep up with the high phone bills with her grandson who was incarcerated. The judge had referred Martha Wright-Reed to the FCC.
The FCC has said inmates or their families were being charged fees that ranged from 50 cents to $3.95 just to place calls. The additional per-minute rates ranged anywhere from 5 cents to 89 cents. A 15 minute call costs about $17. Inmate’s families, many without economic resources, were being gouged by telephone companies who had exclusive contracts with the prisons.
Global Tel*Link is one of the major players in the $1.2 billion business of providing phone service to private and government prisons, according to Bloomberg. The mobile, Alabama-based company has about half of the correctional phone services market and Securus Technologies has about 30%. Both companies make excessive profits with exclusive contracts with prisons. The major prison telephone companies and the prisons have a de facto partnership. As part of the contract, a prison receives commissions from the exorbitant charges paid by inmate’s and inmate’s families.
Prisonpath.com has posted about the unsavory practices of the prison telephone companies in previous articles such as “Predatory Prison Telephone Companies-Updated.”
For many inmate’s families, they could not afford such exorbitant telephone calls. Reduced or no telephone communications impeded ties between inmates and their families and friends. Social studies have shown that close family communications maintains the family unit and ultimately reduces recidivism.
This was not a complete Valentine’s day present since the telephone companies have since filed petitions in court seeking relief and since the new regulations do not cover in-state telephone calls.
By Bradley Schwartz
Founder of prisonpath.com