Clyburn, families rally at FCC on cost of prison phone calls

FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn joined advocates from the Rainbow PUSH coalition and the United Church of Christ, along with families of prison inmates, on Thursday morning to urge the commission to regulate the cost of phone calls from U.S. prisons.

Supporters of the Wright Petition say that fees charged by providers for prison phone calls are "predatory" and have an impact both on families of inmates and on state criminal justice budgets. A 15-minute interstate phone call, says the Center for Media Justice, can cost families almost $20.

Clyburn met with two citizens in September who were circulating a petition to get the FCC to look at the prison phone calls issue. The petition ultimately garnered 40,000 signatures.

"For those families, they will spend an additional $34 over and above their basic monthly phone rate to speak twice a month for a total of 30 minutes. Many cannot afford this," said Clyburn following the September meeting.

The FCC announced Wednesday that it is circulating a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on interstate phone call rules and rates.

Bloomberg recently reported that the prison phone service is a $1.2 billion industry dominated by two providers: Global Tel*Link, a Mobile, Ala.-based company, and Securus Technologies, a Dallas, Texas-based provider.

Both companies have said in filings with the FCC that the additional costs are necessary due to security features required by jail officials.

For more:
- see this release
- Bloomberg has this story

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