With federal action expected this summer to regulate the cost of prison and jail phone calls, the National Sheriffs' Association says the move may “significantly limit or eliminate altogether” the right of prisoners to make those calls, reports ThinkProgress. Incarcerated people and their families — who are disproportionately low-income — have fought for decades against the often exorbitant prison phone rates. The FCC has moved to cap the rates, calling them “unjust and unreasonable.”
But this reform has sparked a revolt from those who benefited financially from the old system: the prison phone industry that makes more than $1 billion a year in profits, and the state and county governments that receive commissions from those calls. Deborah Golden, an attorney with the DC Prisoners' Rights Project, said the commissions are “another tax on poor people and people of color.” Several states, including New York, have eliminated the commissions. But the Sheriff's Association has told the FCC that without the commission income, jails may not be able to afford to provide phone services to prisoners.