FCC’s New Rules Will Provide Families Relief - Despite Prison and Jail Phone Companies’ Efforts to Delay Justice

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Media Contact: Brian Dolinar: (217) 621-5827
March 17, 2016

Today, the Federal Communications Commission's October order to regulate the prison phone industry was partially implemented to provide immediate relief to families that are paying obscene rates to talk to incarcerated loved ones. While this is a step forward for prison phone justice, companies pushed back and filed a lawsuit, which resulted in a federal court stay, delaying the FCC’s order.

Starting today, prison interstate and intrastate calls will be capped at a rate of 21 cents and 25 cents for debit and collect calls, respectively. These rates will drop to 11 cents once the FCC’s order goes into effect. Those in jails will have to wait until June 20, 2016 for rates to go down. The court hasn’t set a date for the case, leaving families and advocates uncertain about when the stay will be lifted.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and Commissioner Mignon Clyburn have expressed their regret in this temporary setback. FCC issued a public notice yesterday underscoring to phone companies that in-state calls will also be capped.

Kevin Reese, Sr., who is incarcerated at Lino Lakes Correctional Facility in Minnesota, and works with Voices for Racial Justice, responded to the phone companies who have delayed the FCC’s rates: “For the Americans who have made mistakes and end up in prisons or jails throughout this country, the phone is the only way they stay connected to their humanity. I am one of the couple million people who are incarcerated in this country, and I'm still a brother, a father, and a friend. The phone is how I stay connected to my family. As a company, you have the right to pursue your self-interest, but I want you to ask yourself at what expense will you pursue this interest?”

Advocates from the Campaign for Prison Phone Justice shared the following statements:

  • “The Wright Petitioners’ are relieved that the FCC saw through the ICS providers’ last-ditch effort to avoid lowering rates for intrastate prison calls. The FCC was correct in refusing to bail out the ICS providers for their failure to recognize that the interim rate caps would apply to intrastate prison rates starting tomorrow. Since the vast majority of ICS calls are intrastate in nature, the FCC’s refusal to “clarify” the very clear intent of the FCC’s rule changes will provide immediate relief to millions of inmates and their families from unjust, unreasonable and unfair intrastate prison rates.” - Lee Petro, Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP   

  • “The implementation of parts of the FCC Order will provide relief for people held in the few remaining New Jersey county jails that continue to overcharge incarcerated individuals and their families for phone calls. Those counties have contracts with Securus that provide calls for 15 cents per minute with a $2 surcharge. By June 20th, the FCC Order will eliminate the surcharge bringing calls down from $4.25 to $2.25 for a 15 minute call, but still over three times as much as the 66 cents for 15 minutes charged in New Jersey state prisons and counties tied to the state contract.” - Karina Wilkinson, New Jersey Advocates for Immigrant Detainees

  • “Mothers have been asking us if the FCC’s new rules have been passed yet. For years they’ve driven up credit card bills just to talk to their sons in prison. When I have tell them they will have to wait another few months for the 11 cent rate to be implemented, they are mad and frustrated. These people need help now.” - Brian Dolinar, Illinois Campaign for Prison Phone Justice

  • “The families of incarcerated people are no longer under the thumb of a predatory prison phone industry. The FCC Order in effect today will bring partial relief to those families whose bravery and commitment to remaining in contact with their loved ones has fueled this fight. Despite attempts by Securus, Global Tel Link and others to manipulate the courts into further delaying reasonable and just rates, the FCC has made sure justice will not be denied.” - Steven Renderos, Senior Campaign Manager, Center for Media Justice

  • "Seemingly there is no limit to the lengths prison phone companies and sheriffs will go to keep their ill-gotten gains no matter the impact on these families, clergy, and lawyer-client communications." - Cheryl Leanza,  policy advisor at the United Church of Christ

Read the Prison Policy Initiative’s blog post with more information about what families can expect from the FCC’s new rules:

See the new prison phones rate guide from the United Church of Christ:

Use this infographic about the new prison phone rates from the Center for Media Justice: