Quick Hit Tuesday February 11th, 2014, 2:57pm

U.S. Rep. Rush Applauds FCC’s Decision To Lower Prison Phone Rates

The following comes from the office of U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL,1).

For three straight Congresses, Energy and Commerce Committee Member Bobby L. Rush introduced legislation and advocated nationally to dramatically reduce exorbitant rates that are charged for phone calls between incarcerated individuals and their families and loved ones. Today, Rep. Rush raises his voice along with these families in commending the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and especially Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, for its recent actions to lower prison phone rates. The new rates will protect families and their imprisoned loved ones when making phone calls to people in prison, jails, or detention centers.

Beginning today, February 11, 2014, and pursuant to a recently adopted FCC interim rate cap, interstate long-distance phone calls cannot cost more than 25 cents per minute for collect calls, or 21 cents per minute for debit and prepaid calls. Prior to today, interstate long distance calls could run as high as $17 for a 15-minute call at some state correctional facilities and jails. Due to the rate cap, the same 15-minute call cannot exceed $3.15. 

Rep. Rush has repeatedly expressed his concern over the fact that families whose phone calls pass through prison networks have to pay up to twenty times the amount that families whose calls travel through traditional public landlines and wireless networks end up paying. The Congressman has described this issue as the “family divide,” a term analogous to the “digital divide” that exists with regard to unequal access to broadband services. Rep. Rush firmly believes that communication, along with the ability to express love toward family, is a fundamental need, and one’s humanity does not perish when they enter the prison system.

During this Congress, Rep. Rush introduced legislation aimed at regulating telephone services to correctional facilities. The Family Telephone Connection Protection Act (HR-1403) would amend the Communications Act to require the FCC to set a maximum telephone rate at correctional facilities, prohibit service providers from paying commissions to correctional administrators, and require correctional institutions to allow more than one provider to offer telephone services to inmates. If enacted, the legislation would require the commission to implement the new rules within one year, and the rules would be subject to a triennial review. The legislation follows recent pleas from prisoners who in handwritten letters from across the country asked the commission to help bring phone call price reform to the nations' correctional facilities (CD March 26 p4). The inmate comments were filed in docket 12-375 on the commission’s NPRM on prison phone call reforms (CD Dec 31 p6).

More than 2.7 million children in the United States have at least one parent in prison. Ensuring that prison phone rates are adjusted to reasonable levels will not only increase affordability of service for those families with children but will also help keep those families intact as much as possible and reduce recidivism.

Please view and share the following information for more details on the FCC’s decision to lower prison phone rates: SummaryFrequently Asked Questions and our guide How to File a Complaint at the FCC for Prison Phone Call Charges that are Too High.

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