As referenced in the Washington Post today, federal regulators made sweeping new steps to lower the cost of calling jail and prison inmates in an effort to correct what some top officials have called an “egregious case of market failure” in inmate phone rates. The rules establish a ceiling for phone calls to jails and prisons that’s based on the number of inmates housed by those institutions.
For state and federal prisons, rates will be capped at 11 cents per minute. Phone companies serving the nation’s smallest jails (i.e. those with fewer than 350 inmates) will not be allowed to charge more than 22 cents per minute.
The rules would also prohibit so-called “flat-rate” calling, which charges families the same regardless of how long they talk, and they would also gradually “phase down” the price of collect calls over the course of several years.
Currently, in some cases, a typical call costs as much as $14 a minute, resulting in conversations that cost families some $54 a call, said Democratic FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, who helped lead a push in 2012 to control the costs of interstate inmate calls. “This system has preyed on our most vulnerable for far too long,” said Clyburn.
Families are being further torn apart and the cycle of poverty is being perpetuated.