While Congress and the Federal Communications Commission is considering the issue of jamming inmates’ cell phones, they should address a key reason cell phones are being smuggled into prisons: the exorbitant rates inmates and their families are charged for collect calls, says St. Paul Pioneer Press columnist Ruben Rosario. Prison-rights groups want Congress to require the FCC to regulate inmate phone services and the fees providers charge.
“We are convinced that the majority of the smuggled phones are being used by incarcerated individuals to stay in touch with family and friends – the very people they will need in order to make a successful transition to the free world,” says Citizens United for Rehabilitation of Errants, a grass-roots prison reform organization. Minnesota inmates are charged $1 plus 5 cents per minute for local collect calls. That number jumps to $3 per call and 23 cents per minute for long-distance collect calls within Minnesota but outside the prison’s local access area. Collect calls to another state cost $3.95 per call and 89 cents per minute. Much revenue collected from inmate calls pays for the cost of monitoring phone calls as well as to fund inmate recreation, education programming, inmate libraries, and other services.