FCC Imposes New Limits on Inmate Calling Rates

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has voted to limit the rates and service fees for phone calls made from jails and prisons. As reported on The Hill:

The FCC also implemented new rules it said would “discourage” advance payments that the few dominate calling services give to prisons to win exclusive contracts, sometimes described as “kickbacks.” Advocates and even the phone companies themselves pushed the FCC to go further to end the payments altogether, which are technically called site commissions. But the FCC said its authority to do that is questionable.

Clyburn encouraged states to reevaluate those payments and to cap rates at even lower levels at the local level, as a few states have already done.

Most inmates’ calling rates will drop to 11 cents per minute, though rates will be capped at higher prices in smaller prisons and jails. Other transaction fees will be capped between $2 and $6.

The cap is a more than 50 percent drop from previous limits, and those only applied to calls between states. The new cap will apply to all calls within a state and between states.

An FCC news release provides a summary of key provisions including:

  • A tiered rate structure accounts for the relatively higher costs ICS providers face in serving jails (especially small jails) as opposed to state and federal prisons. The rate caps are as follows:

    • 11 cents/minute for debit and prepaid calls in state or federal prisons.
    • Approximately 71% of inmates reside in state or federal prisons
    • 14 cents/minute for debit and prepaid calls in jails with 1,000 or more inmates.
    • Approximately 85% of inmates reside in institutions with populations exceeding 1,000
    • 16 cents /minute for debit and prepaid calls in jails with 350-999 inmates.
    • 22 cents /minute for debit and prepaid calls in jails of up to 349 inmates.
    • Rates for collect calls are slightly higher in the first year and will be phased down to these caps over a two-year transition period.

For more information read the full article on The Hill and the FCC News Release (pdf).

Previous coverage on Conduit Street:

FCC to Vote on Limiting Costs of Inmate Phone Calls