The families of the more than two million men, women, and children behind bars in America found something to cheer about earlier this year when the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) set new caps on interstate rates for telephone calls from prisoners, an effort spearheaded by Prison Legal News‘s tireless advocacy.  Whereas contract providers like Global Tel Link and others charged up to $20.00 or more for a 15-minute phone call from prison, the new FCC prison phone rates are capped at 24 cents per minute for prepaid calls and 25 cents a minute for collect calls.

While the FCC rates have been a boon to federal prisoners’ families hundreds or thousands of miles away from their incarcerated loved ones, the FCC’s ruling on such calls does not even cover an even larger segment of the market: the in-state calls made by state prisoners.  Now, in New Jersey, a local call might cost a prisoner as much as $8.00, when a long-distance call might cost $3.00.

FCC Interim Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn has called for additional review of this truck-sized loophole in the new regulations, and said that the FCC has the “duty and the authority to act under the [relevant] statute if the states do not.”  Her agency is presently calling on the states to do just that, voluntarily.  In response, Alabama recently moved to cap its in-state prison phone rates at 25 cents a minute.

To learn more about this developing story, read the National Journal‘s article “Despite New Rules, Prisoners Still Paying Big to Call Home.”

Unfair and overpriced phone rates are making communication between millions of inmates and their families difficult. And that hurts not just them, but society at large. Jacob Soboroff is joined by guests Ava DuVernay, Emayatzy Corinealdi, Steven Renderos, Alex Friedman, Amir Varick Amma and Bethany Fraser to discuss.

About Christopher Zoukis, MBA

Christopher Zoukis, MBA, is the Managing Director of the Zoukis Consulting Group, a federal prison consultancy that assists attorneys, federal criminal defendants, and federal prisoners with prison preparation, in-prison matters, and reentry. His books include Directory of Federal Prisons (Middle Street Publishing, 2020), Federal Prison Handbook (Middle Street Publishing, 2017), Prison Education Guide (PLN Publishing, 2016), and College for Convicts: The Case for Higher Education in American Prisons (McFarland & Company, 2014).

2 Comments

  1. Dianne Frazee-Walker on July 21, 2014 at 5:15 pm

    Christopher Zoukis brings to our attention how the prison system is making a profit on inmate phone calls at the expense of inmates and their family members. What the government doesn’t realize is this has a trickle affect on the public as well because it is taking revenue away from communities and family support inmates need to return to society as productive citizens.



  2. MA on July 24, 2014 at 12:47 am

    It seems like the main issue is similar to the problem of government in politics. What possible reason would someone have to change a policy that benefits them? In the case of prisons, they are making money from prisoners, so:

    • Why would they want fewer prisoners?
      – Why would they want to change phone rules?

    People should not be able to profit off things that need to be looked at completely objectively, and yet this entire country is built on the idea that you should be paid to do anything.



Leave a Comment