Prison Phones

Today, there are roughly 2.3 million people within the United States prison system, not including the over 363, 000 individuals detained in immigrant detention facilities.

Historically, the prices to make a phone call from prison are astronomically high, which has been detrimental to family members and loved ones footing the bill. Additionally, the prison system chooses which company provides for them, which often included a “kick-back” profit to the state or the prisons themselves. Under the Communications Act, it is the responsibility of the FCC to ensure that phone rates for a population of Americans remain just and reasonable.

Commendably, in August 2013, the FCC put a cap on prison phone charges--15 cents per minute. They also put a stop to kick-back schemes. This long awaited action was facilitated through the outstanding and tireless commitment of FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn and staff, the Campaign for Prison Phone Justice as well as a wide coalition of civil rights, public interest and criminal justice reform organizations, including Public Knowledge. Together these efforts ensure that the families and loved ones of inmates are no longer susceptible to the exorbitant rates and egregious fee practices of inmate call service providers.

Public Knowledge supports open and affordable access to communications. The cost of these calls should be proportionate to the operating costs of these phone systems.

To learn more check out the following:

We produced a podcast exclusively on the topic of prison phones. 

We compiled a series of letters written to the FCC by people who are adversely affected by exorbitant prison phone rates and practices.

Clarissa Ramon wrote this piece commending the FCC on their decision.

Here are the PK experts on this issue:

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