FCC Lowers Inmate Calling Rates

The FCC adopted reduced calling rates that would allow inmates to contact their families more frequently.

Posted: 08/27/2013 01:57 PM EDT

For inmates, talk isn’t cheap. And after 10 years of families and legal representatives urging the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to ease the financial burden of inmate phone calls, the commission has finally agreed.

The FCC has adopted an interim rate cap of 21 cents per minute for debit and pre-paid calls and 25 cents per minute for collect calls. This will decrease rates from $17 for a 15-minute call to $3.75 or $3.15. 

According to the FCC, “exorbitant price of interstate long-distance calls” discouraged inmates from keeping connections that would ease their transition back into society — a boomerang effect that adversely affects African-Americans who make up nearly one million of the 2.2 million incarcerated in the U.S.

Broadband and Social Justice reported:

Groups such as the Campaign for Prison Phone Justice and the Prison Phone Rates Collaborative, and civil rights leaders like the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson Sr., have decried the exorbitant costs of inmate calls and urged the FCC to take action on this issue.

At a communications policy lecture last year, Jackson stated, “Visits to incarcerated family members are difficult for the poor. Transportation, accommodations — visits are an economic burden. The phone becomes the only way to maintain communication.”

By reducing the rates, the FCC said that communities, inmates and the estimated 2.7 million children of inmates would benefit from increased contact.

Inmates who maintain contact with family and community while in prison show reduced recidivism rates. These individuals have a better chance at becoming productive citizens upon their release, the FCC explained.

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(Photo: Lucy Nicholson / Reuters)

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