A 13-year campaign to cut the cost of prison phone calls has finally reached a political dial tone, as inmates and their families have found allies in high places, McClatchy Newspapers report. With prisoners paying as much as $17 for a 15-minute long-distance call, the Federal Communications Commission has raised the possibility of new regulations. These could range from caps on interstate rates to the elimination of per-call charges. “It's a justice issue, it's a civil liberties issues, it's an issue of trying to keep families as intact as possible,” FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn said in an interview Friday. “This is a situation that cries out for attention.”
The FCC has opened a two-month public comment period as a possible prelude to new rules. While companies that provide prison phone service caution against imprudent action, inmates have been writing their personal pleas. Pennsylvania inmate Cesar Fernandez Jr. likened prison phone fees to a “theft of money from indigent prisoners and their families.” Washington state inmate Edward King called the fees “an extortion of millions of dollars a year from those who are traditionally the poorest in our state.” Pennsylvania inmates report their phone costs fell by 70 percent when they were transferred, because of overcrowding, to Michigan.