Securus stalls efforts to reduce inmate telephone rates

By Kevin D. Sawyer

Regulatory efforts to reduce the price of in-state telephone calls made by inmates were stalled by Securus Technologies, Inc.

The Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) attempt to cap the rates at no more than $0.31 per minute was stayed by the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit after Securus filed a petition.

“A lack of regulation or price caps allows companies like Securus, Global Tel*Link and others to charge whatever rates they and the (county jails) in which they operate choose,” the International Business Times reported in the online publication RT America. “As a result, the cost of a 15-minute conversation can cost over $15.”

According to the Times, the FCC made several attempts to reduce the costs of in-state calls in 2016. The agency wanted to place a cap on the price of calls from $0.11 to $0.22 per minute on both interstate and in-state calls from prisons. Global Tel*Link, the industry leader in providing inmate calling services, blocked that attempt, followed by Securus filing for a stay in the regulations, pending a lawsuit against the FCC.

“That isn’t to say that the FCC has accomplished nothing in their battle,” according to RT America. “They did manage to implement a $0.21 per minute cap on interstate calls, according to Ars Technica. But the result has been an increase on (in-state) calls.”

Securus has already gained a reputation for hardnosed deals regarding the video calling service offered in correctional facilities across the country with the condition that these lockup facilities get rid of face-to-face visiting.

“While families may be growing frustrated with the increasing expenses, there is little incentive for local governments to intervene on their behalf,” RT America reported, explaining that some county facilities receive millions of dollars in commissions from the providers of inmate calling services.

Last year, Securus CEO Rick Smith, told the Times that the increasing rates for in-state calls are due to the FCC’s not banning commissions to sheriff and prison officials.

“The lower rates that were highly publicized never went into effect because the FCC failed to do their job and tried to set rates below our cost,” said Smith. “There are no rate caps on (in-state) and local calls, only on interstate calls. I understand that inmates and families are upset that rates didn’t decrease, it’s the FCC’s fault.”

According to the Times, Securus Technologies is reported to have made $531 million in gross revenue in 2015.

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