Victory: FCC caps rates and fees on prison phone calls

Justice for prisoners' familiesFor the 2.7 million children who have one or both parents incarcerated, a phone call from mom or dad means the world. But when those calls cost $20 or more for just a few minutes, it can jeopardize the finances of families already in peril.

In a perverse system of kickbacks, prisons contract to run their phone systems with private companies that charge prisoners “commission fees” on every minute of each call. Those commissions end up as kickbacks to the prisons, creating an incentive to pick companies that charge prisoners more.

CREDO has been fighting for years to change this. In 2013, more than 25,000 CREDO activists urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to stop phone companies from profiteering off of the families of prisoners. Then, just a few weeks ago, thousands of additional CREDO activists signed a petition urging the FCC to “take immediate action to limit costs for local phone charges in the prison phone industry.” Our friends at ColorOfChange delivered the petition signatures directly to FCC Commissioners in a meeting earlier this month.

Yesterday, our activism worked. In a 3-2 decision yesterday morning, the FCC voted to cap state and federal prison phone rates at 11 cents per minute, and to cap jail phone rates at 14 to 22 cents per minute.

As FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn said after the vote yesterday morning, “today’s vote will never make up for the inactions of the past, but it is my hope that the order will finally bring relief to those that have waited for so long.”

Yesterday’s vote was an important step forward for the millions of families with loved ones in prison. We appreciate the tens of thousands of activists who helped make it possible.