I’ve written before about the unjust and short-sighted way that prisons and phone companies screw over prison inmates and their families by charging outrageous rates for phone calls to and from the prisons. The FCC is finally going to look into the issue and is considering a policy to cut those rates:
An FCC spokesman confirmed that Chairman Julius Genachowski circulated a proposal on Wednesday that would seek public comments on prison phone rules and rates.
“These issues affect the families of inmates, prisoner rehabilitation, as well as prison security,” the spokesman said…
Prisons request bids from telephone companies to provide service and require each bid to include a fee to the prison. Critics argue the system encourages exorbitant rates.
A typical interstate collect call from prison has a $3.95 connection fee and rates as high as 90 cents per minute, according to civil liberties groups. A 15-minute collect call could cost families $10 to $17 and a one-hour call once a week would cost $250 per month.
And this at a time when phone rates have bottomed out for everyone else because of cell phones and VOIP. All of this is not just unfair, it’s bad policy that hurts society by making recidivism more likely. One of the key factors in keeping inmates on the straight and narrow after getting out of prison is their ability to connect with their families and communities. If you can’t talk to them, you can’t do that. And what is going on here is nothing more than a kickback, with prisons making money by screwing the inmates — and the rest of the country too.
Those calls should be free, for crying out loud. And with VOIP, there’s no reason why they can’t be.