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FCC Stops Exploitation of Inmate Families



Once again, the Federal Communications Commission, under the stewardship of Chairwoman Clyburn, has taken action to protect inmate’s families and friends from gouging telephone bills. In September, the FCC denied Securus Technologies request to block prison telephone calls made through competing companies. Securus Technologies is one of the major players in the $1.2 billion business of providing phone service to private and government prisons, according to Bloomberg. Securus has about 30% of this major annual business. Securus and another company, Global Tel*Link 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, the prison received commissions from the exorbitant charges paid by inmate’s and inmate’s families. Details about this cozy arrangement was posted in Predatory Prison Telephone Companies.

The FCC also issued regulations in August capping the excessive telephone rates charged by companies such as Securus and Global Tel Link. For example, At the Contra Costa West County Detention Facility in Richmond, California, detained immigrants were paying about $20.00 for a fifteen minute telephone call. Global Tel*Link paid Contra Costa County a commission of up to 57% on phone calls, in addition to a $75,000 bonus for awarding the exclusive contract. The county received $653,506 in commissions from Global from 2011 – 2012.

Inmates and their families had only one option to avoid these excessive phone charges. If your number was long distancefrom the facility, the charge for these calls were extremely high. To compete against these monopolies, competing companies provided a local telephone number to an inmate’s family. The local number was given by the family and the inmate to the prison and its exclusive provider. The family and the inmate are now charged rates that were far less than the exorbitant prices set by Securus and Global.

In 2009, Securus filed a petition to block the telephone calls made from the competing companies. The FCC denied the petition on September 27. This decision was a major victory for families who wanted to maintain contact with their loved one who was incarcerated. Telephone communications between the families and their loved ones who are incarcerated should be a top priority for any correctional system. It is recognized that strong family ties contribute to an inmate’s successful reentry. Reasonable telephone rates contribute to a lower recidivism rate.

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