Prison phone call prices to drop by DecemberBy Nisa Islam Muhammad -Staff Writer- | Last updated: Sep 13, 2013 - 1:13:39 PM
WASHINGTON (FinalCall.com) - The Federal Communications Commission has taken long-overdue steps to ensure rates for interstate long-distance calls made by prison inmates are just, reasonable and fair.
The new rates are expected to take effect in December for prepaid calling cards and debit cards.
“For 10 years, family, friends and legal representatives of inmates have been urging the courts and waiting for the FCC to ease the burden of an exorbitant inmate calling rate structure. Their wait is at long last over. Borrowing from a 1964 anthem inspired by challenges of his time, the immortal songwriter Sam Cooke sang that it’s been a long, long time in coming, but change has finally come,” said acting FCC Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn.
The order “reforms the rates and charges for interstate inmate calling services and provides immediate and meaningful relief, particularly for low income families across this nation,” she added.
Studies make clear that inmates who maintain contact with family and community while in prison have a reduced rate of recidivism and are more likely to become productive upon release.
An estimated 2.7 million children could benefit from increased communication with an incarcerated parent. Many of these children face challenges manifested in higher rates of truancy, homelessness, depression and other ills.
Rashad Robinson of Colorofchange.org called the change “a victory for Black families and communities, who are already coping with disproportionate policing and over incarceration, and who have for too long been seen as a cash cow by predatory prison phone companies.”
“The FCC has done the right thing in making sure that no one is forced to choose between communication with a family member or being able to put food on the table,” he said.
“Price gouging by the prison phone industry has had a profound effect on Black children, as one out of nine have an incarcerated parent,” Mr. Robinson said.
The commission’s reforms require that all interstate inmate calling rates, including ancillary charges, be based on the cost of providing the inmate calling service and provides immediate relief from exorbitant rates: It adopts an interim rate cap of $0.21 per minute for debit and pre-paid calls and $0.25 per minute for collect calls, dramatically decreasing rates of over $17 for a 15-minute call to no more than $3.75 or $3.15 a call.
The change was ordered Aug. 9 and it was expected to take 120 days for the new rates to take effect on prepaid calling cards and debit cards.
The commission’s action addresses a petition filed nearly a decade ago by Martha Wright, a Washington, D.C. grandmother who sought relief from extreme inmate calling rates.
“Mrs. Wright once talked with her grandson Ulandis, who is here with us today, a couple of times a week, about 15 minutes each call. For this minimal contact she often paid more than $100 a month, no small change for a retired nurse,” said Ms. Clyburn.
Mrs. Wright’s grandson, who spent several years incarcerated until his release in 2012, said the phone calls from his grandmother helped him stay sane and focused.