The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette says the Federal Communications Commission is looking into why it costs so much for Pennsylvania jail and prison inmates to make a phone call. In-state calls can cost $5 for 15 minutes. To dial an out-of-state number, a Pennsylvania prison inmate pays $9.35 for 15 minutes. At the Allegheny County Jail, they pay $10.65.
The small group of telecom companies that sells phone service to prisons says costs are driven up by the expensive security capabilities demanded by their clients. But advocates instead blame state and local governments, which take as much as half of the prison phone income. In 2012, Pennsylvania took in $6.9 million as its cut of prisoner phone call charges. Slightly less than half went to buy amenities for inmates; the rest went to the state’s general fund.