Friday, June 16, 2017

$15 for 15 minutes: How Courts Are Letting Prison Phone Companies Gouge Incarcerated People

In 2013 and then again in 2015, President Barack Obama’s Federal Communications Commission, the body that regulates the prison phone industry, moved to alleviate the burden of the impossible choice like the one faced by Shields. After activists waged a decadeslong campaign to lower prison call rates, the FCC voted to cap the costs. Different facilities maintained different rates, but no incarcerated person, under Obama’s new rules, would be paying more than 49 cents per minute for a call to someone in the same state where their prison was located.

On Tuesday, much of that progress was undone when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled against limiting the cost of intrastate prison phone calls.

For 2.2 million people behind bars and their families, the ruling represents a severe setback in their lengthy struggle for affordable phone calls. The calls allow incarcerated people to keep up relationships, including with their children, among others. Now, when incarcerated people and their families live in the same state, those communications will be completely unregulated by the federal government.

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