It’s no secret that most prison facilities profit in some way from calls that are made to and by inmates. There’s only a handful of providers who have locked out the market for competition, which means the prices for these calls are not competitive – a lot of times, these are some of the most expensive calls anyone can make.
A Legislative Fix
This is a problem that has gained the attention of legislators who want to put an end to exorbitant charges for prison calls. A bipartisan bill introduced by U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and co-sponsored by U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) that will bring competition to the market for prison calling rates at prison facilities in the U.S.
The bill is called the Inmate Calling Technical Corrections Act of 2018, S. 2520. What the bill aims to do is clarify Congress’ intent that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) protect all consumers and prevent these outrageous rates that negatively impact the safety of all people in the U.S. Specifically, this would apply to payphones, which inmates must use to make and receive phone calls.
It will also eliminate the improper recording of inmate’s phone conversations with their attorneys, which has led to a number of overturned convictions or dismissal of cases.
The bill has gained the support of over than two dozen criminal justice leaders and civil rights organizations last month alone. The American Civil Liberties Union; Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC); Interfaith Action for Human Rights; the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights; the NAACP; the National Urban League; and the Prison Policy Initiative are among groups that have given their support for this bill.
An end to price-gouging
Basically, what that this legislation will do is get rid of the price gouging for prison calls. The fees that some prison phone companies charge are also ridiculously high. It can cost as much as $5 to simply deposit money into a prepaid account. That’s just the fee to place the money in the account. The call itself can as much as $1.50 per minute or more.
Typically, in an open-market system, prices are driven down because of competition. But, prison calling rates and fees can’t be reduced through market forces because consumers can’t choose the telephone company they use to call their loved ones. There’s just not enough competition.
Currently, low-income families have to make tough choices about staying in touch with an incarcerated loved one. For example, a grandmother on a fixed income must choose whether to make the call or pay a bill. Or, a mother who can’t collect child support from the inmate will have to choose whether to make the call or buy new shoes for the child. It’s not just the inmate who suffers. The entire family suffers, including the children.
There’s even more at stake
Studies have shown that it’s important for prisoners to maintain relationships while incarcerated. Prisoners are less likely to engage in misconduct. Recidivism rates are lower when an inmate has a network of family and friends that can support him when he returns home.
To be behind bars and cut off from family and friends is an isolating experience. Without the love and support of a caring network, an inmate will have a much harder time serving out his sentence.
At PrisonConnect, we offer the option for low-cost prison phone calls to your loved one. We don’t want you to have to choose between paying your bills and making a phone call to your loved one. It’s important to have a low-cost option to stay in contact with your loved one between visits. We know how hard it is and we hope that by providing a low-cost phone service, you can stay connected with your loved one.