Reformers Still Trying to Lower Inmate Phone Costs

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Tory Brito spends hundreds of dollars every month on phone calls to speak with her husband imprisoned in Waupun, Wi. Brito works two jobs to make ends meet and struggles to pay the large sums required to call her husband on a regular basis. Phone calls are vital for their relationship and his morale. She is one of millions of family members of people behind bars across the U.S. who fund the $1.2 billion prison phone industry, which prison reform advocates have been trying – and failing – to fix for years and that former Federal Communications Commission member Mignon Clyburn called “the greatest, most distressing, type of injustice I have ever seen in the communications sector,” reports The Guardian.

Two companies, Securus and GTL, control more than 70 percent of the market for prison calls. These companies have won contracts across the U.S.by awarding kickbacks and commissions to jail and prison facilities, and boosted profits by adding consumer fees and including extra services into phone contracts. Reformers are pushing for legislation to make phone calls free for prisoners or significantly lower and cap the high rates and fees charged by prison phone corporations. New York City and San Francisco made phone calls from local jails free this year, the first major cities to do so. Bills to make phone calls in prisons and jails free have been proposed in Connecticut and Massachusetts. progress at the federal level to reduce prison phone call rates were rolled back under the Trump administration as FCC commissioner Ajit Pai directed FCC lawyers to stop defending caps on call rates approved by the agency in 2015 under the Obama administration.

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