Interstate Inmate Phone Call Rates Lowered by FCC

By Patricia Murphy

Phone calls made by inmates at Washington correctional institutions are expensive. That cost goes up if they’re calling out of state. A new ruling today by the Federal Communications Commission will limit just how much an inmate will have to pay to connect with people on the outside. The fight to lower inmate calling costs has gone on for more than a decade.

Right now in Washington an inmate who makes a 15 minute call to someone out of state will pay more than $11. FCC Acting chair Mignon Clyburn said the current rate structure placed an unfair burden on the families of inmates. Clyburn was emotional as she lobbied fellow commissioners for the change.

“Studies have shown that having meaningful contact beyond prison walls can make a big difference in maintaining community ties and reducing recidivism" says Clyburn. He adds "For families on fixed incomes personal engagement is much much too often beyond reach.”

In the end the panel voted 2-1 to cap interstate phone rates at 21 cents a minute for debit or prepaid calls and 25 cents a minute for collect calls. When applied here it’s likely the new rules will cut the cost of an out of state phone call by about half. The lone dissenting commissioner called the proposal too complex.

Ajit Pai questioned the commissions ability to enforce the change.

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