Another Step Toward Fairness in Inmate Calling Services

Over two years ago, the FCC adopted an Order reforming prices for inmate calling services, reducing the burden of exorbitant charges for millions of families. This change was obviously a long time coming. The journey started in 2003 when Mrs. Martha Wright, a retired nurse from Washington, D. C., came before the Commission seeking relief from the hundred-dollars-a-month bills she was making significant personal sacrifices to pay so she could stay in touch with her imprisoned grandson. Over the next 10 years, others from around the country joined up with this cause. I was honored to keep the gavel when the inmate contacting reform Order was adopted in August 2013, and humbled that many of the petitioners who demanded alter – including Mrs. Wright’s grand son – were in the Commission Conference Room that day.

The 2013 Order was a big-deal. But it was also only a first action. It covered interstate calls however, not intrastate, and the caps the Payment adopted were interim pending further review. Over the past two years, we’ve been able to learn from the initial reforms, now the Commission is moving forward with the item that draws on these lessons and takes another important step forward to make inmate calling rates inexpensive to promote connectivity with friends and family to prevent inmates returning home as other people, which increases the likelihood of recidivism.

Anyone wondering why defendent calling reform is necessary should view the testimony of Bethany Fraser during the Commission’s August 2013 meeting. Ms. Fraser is the mother associated with two boys whose father can be incarcerated. Holding back tears, she explained how her phone expenses regularly exceeded her electricity and grocery bills combined, but she “would do anything and pay any amount to keep my children linked to their father. ” Fraser additional, “Choosing between essential needs and keeping kids connected to their parent is a choice no family should have to make. ” I couldn’t agree more.

Unfortunately, Microsoft. Fraser’s sons are two associated with 2 . 7 million children who may have at least one parent in prison as well as the 10 million children that have a new parent incarcerated. These children reside in households that are often suffering serious economic hardships, which are being exacerbated by unaffordable inmate calling prices. How high can these fees be? One call from a pro bono attorney in Florida was $56 with all the fees for a 4-minute discussion. Even if this is an extreme case, the fact that it’s possible tells you the system needs fixing.

Easing the particular financial burden on these family members is not only the compassionate thing to do, it is the smart thing to do. More than 700, 500 inmates are released from correctional facilities each year. Multiple studies have proven that having meaningful contact beyond the prison walls can make a actual difference in maintaining community ties, marketing rehabilitation, and reducing recidivism.

Since our 2013 Purchase, we’ve been collecting information and monitoring implementation of the new guidelines, and the evidence overwhelmingly supports taking additional steps to protect consumers.

The interim rate hats we adopted in 2013 have resulted in higher volumes of interstate calls: 70 percent in some cases! These data confirm what should currently be obvious: unaffordable rates dissuade contact while a more affordable program promotes communication.
Despite predictions of devastating impacts, I am unaware of any instances of security issues or phones being removed from services due to these rate caps.

However , one negative trend we have seen is an increase in additional fees and charges, such as those people to open an account, put money in to an account, close an account, or even reimbursement money to an account.

I’ve been working closely with Chairman Wheeler’s office to continue this important work. Today, the Chief and I circulated an Order that will establish a reasonable rate structure for many inmate calls, regardless of where they originate and terminate, and limit costly fees that drive up the cost families pay to stay in touch using their loved ones.

The FCC’s rate caps would fully support the security requirements of inmate contacting. These caps also would provide adequate revenue for correctional institutions to recuperate the costs of providing calling program and a fair return for suppliers while delivering reasonable rates for inmates and their families.

Additionally , the Order would set up a process by which the Commission may continue to collect and monitor data on rates and fees, and consider whether to revisit and further adjust these reforms based on the advancement of the market.

This action will protect some of society’s many vulnerable people from being used, while strengthening families. I look forward to working with my colleagues to take one more major step forward in this journey which usually began more than a decade ago.

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