Advocates for prison reform have renewed attempts to stop telephone companies from overcharging inmates and their families. Some collect telephone calls made from prison cost as much as $17 to talk for 15 minutes, reported The Lookout news blog.
“It makes no sense to cut off or make impossible their communication with their families,” said David Keene, former head of the American Conservative Union, adding, it is “a tax on the poorest people in our society.”
CALL TO ACTION
A bipartisan group of religious, civil rights, and human rights leaders called for action in a letter to the Federal Communications Commission in May 2012.
“The ability to call home at a reasonable price is an important factor in whether inmates rehabilitate and reintegrate into society when they return,” said prisoner advocates. “That’s the dilemma facing many inmates who must rely on the prison phone service and pay sky-high rates.”
According to The Lookout, some phone companies pay commissions to states when they are awarded exclusive contracts to provide inmates phone service in prison. The cost of these commissions paid to states is later passed on to inmates and their families.
The money is a source of revenue for many of the country’s crowded prisons that are in need of cash, according to The Lookout. In 2011, there was $152 million in revenue generated for state prisons.
The Government Accountability Office reported that the federal prison system, which charges less for calls, uses its commissions for recreation and job-related inmate activities.
A spokesman for the FCC informed Yahoo News that it is working on the issue of high-priced phone rates in prison.