For decades, prison phone companies have been getting really, really rich from charging inmates exorbitant amounts to call their loved ones – and are fighting to keep it that way.
Last year, after a long battle waged by prison advocates, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) finally agreed to cap call rates at 11 cents a minute in prisons (and 14 cents to 22 cents for jails). In the past, some inmates were forced to swallow fees that were as steep as $14 per minute.
But prison phone giants, like Securus Technologies and Global Tel*Link, were determined to hold onto their bread and butter and sued the FCC, alleging that their plan to slash phone rates was overreaching and would inflict "irreparable, immediate harm" upon their businesses.
In March, a federal court of appeals agreed to put the FCC's plan on hold.
Now, apparently looking to strike a compromise, the FCC last week proposed new cap rates, of 13 cents per minute at state and federal prisons – where they say about 71 percent of inmates reside. Inmates at local jails could be charged higher rates up to 31 cents for one minute, depending on the facility's size.
Phone companies have justified the high rates by saying they cover additional fees charged by prison companies. The FCC insists that their proposed rate caps will allow phone companies to recover those costs while still turning a profit.
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