The cost of collect telephone calls made from jails and prisons is on the rise, in spite of a recent rate cap imposed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), according to the International Business Times (IBT).
“In my 16 years as a regulator, this is the clearest, most egregious case of market failure I have seen,” said Mignon Clyburn, of the FCC.
“64% of California’s jail population is awaiting trial or sentencing as of December 2016.” Most remain in pretrial custody because they cannot afford bail. Jail Profile Survey, http://www.bscc.ca.gov/
In 2013, the FCC set a rate cap of 25 cents per minute on interstate collect calls made from correctional facilities. Following a period to collect public input, the regulatory agency voted in October 2015 to implement the rate cap on what companies are allowed to charge customers.
The cap, however, only affected interstate calls, leaving calls made within the state (an intrastate call) subject to whatever rate the provider of inmate calling services sets.
Securus Technologies, an industry leader and provider of inmate calling services, has raised intrastate rates to make up for the lost revenue, Paul Wright of the Human Rights Defense Center (HRDC) told IBT. The net result, according to Wright is “higher costs to prisoners’ family members.”
In response to the increase, the HRDC filed a complaint with the FCC in June, noting customers nationwide have reported rate increases by Securus Technologies.
“Bottom line, 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 Rick Smith, chief executive of Securus Technologies, the IBT reported. “There are no rate caps on intrastate 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.”
Wright admits Securus is not doing anything illegal, the IBT reported. In the HRDC complaint Wright wrote, “While Securus may not be violating the law … there is no question that they are not only violating the spirit of the Commission’s Order, but doing so in a blatant manner that indicates their contempt for the FCC’s reforms and authority.”
“It’s salt in the wound,” said Connie Pratt, a 63-year-old woman from Chico, California, whose 33-year-old son is incarcerated in Northern California, the IBT reported. “The whole prison experience is dehumanizing. They’re (inmates) treated so badly that they’re not going to come out better.”