We firmly believe that even though a prisoner's body is locked up, their mind can always be free to travel the world and learn about anything they are interested through the magic or books.
Wednesday, November 28, 2012
A Needless Charge for Prison Families
After nearly a decade of delay, the Federal Communications Commission is finally focusing on the private telephone companies that charge outrageously high rates for the calls that many of the nation’s 1.6 million prison inmates make to stay in contact with their families.
The commissioners are considering a proposal to seek public comment on prison phone regulation. They need to act to end the burdensome charges that can make a single phone call from prison as expensive as an entire month of home phone service.
Prison calls are so expensive because inmates must place them through independent companies that pay the state corrections departments a “commission,” essentially a legal kickback. A 15 minute call can cost a family as much as $17.
For struggling families who want to keep in touch with loved ones behind bars, this can sometimes mean choosing between a phone call and putting food on the table.
The high cost discourages contact with loved ones behind bars, which, in turn, makes it all the more difficult for ex-offenders to fit in at home when they are released.
For this reason, more than a half-dozen states have already lowered rates by barring their corrections departments from requiring “commission” arrangements in telephone contracts.
Even so, some prison officials and telephone companies defend the commission system, arguing that the extra charges are necessary to pay for security screening of inmate calls.
But that is not a problem in states like New York, which requires companies to provide prison telephone service at the lowest possible rate. Nor is it a problem in the federal prisons, which use an inexpensive, computerized system that allows inmates to place monitored calls to a limited number of preregistered people.
The F.C.C. should move quickly to bring fairness to the system, and it should consider imposing rate caps on what the phone companies can charge.