Attorney general: FCC changes to inmate phone calls could save the state millions

OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma officials say a recent order by the Federal Communications Commission could save the state millions of dollars.

The FCC order would cap rates below what many prisons and jails have been charging for inmate phone calls.

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt led a coalition of nine states and numerous sheriffs to file a lawsuit against the FCC’s in-state phone call price controls…

Oklahoma AG Pruitt claims partial victory in challenge to inmate phone rates

WASHINGTON — Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt claimed victory Tuesday after the Federal Communications Commission modified its plan for reducing rates charged by jails and prisons for inmate phone calls.

Pruitt said an order issued by the commission would save the state millions of dollars, but he vowed to continue pressing his lawsuit challenging the FCC’s authority to regulate intrastate calls to and from inmates.

The FCC order issued Tuesday would cap rates below what many prisons and jails had been charging, but they are higher than what the commission approved last year before Pruitt’s lawsuit…

Lawsuit challenges jailhouse phone fees

A new class action lawsuit filed on behalf of San Mateo County jail inmates accuses the county of charging burdensome and unnecessary fees for phone calls, hindering inmates’ attempts to keep in touch with loved ones and creating a financial hardship for families.

The lawsuit follows similar suits filed in Southern California counties over the last several months but is the first such lawsuit filed in the Bay Area. In the suit, attorneys for the plaintiffs pledged future challenges to phone call fees in Santa Clara County, Contra Costa County and Alameda County as well.

Inmate calling systems have been controversial for some time with critics alleging that they are a revenue-raising technique at the expense of vulnerable families trying to keep in touch with incarcerated loved ones…

How much would you pay to stay in contact with your loved one in jail?

Lexington County jail inmates are being charged phone rates to call home that are substantially higher than their counterparts in Richland County – rates a state senator said take advantage of their relatives.

The money collected from inmate calls has added an annual average of about $290,500 to the budget for operating the jail during the past five years, figures from the county’s finance office show.

The company that has the contract with the Lexington County Detention Center, Securus Technologies, which is one of the nation’s largest phone providers for inmates, has been accused of predatory pricing by a human rights organization that focuses on jails and prisons…

Counties accused of profiting from jail call kickbacks

A class action lawsuit has been filed against San Bernardino, Orange and Riverside Counties over an alleged kick-back scheme involving telephone calls from jails.

The suit not only brings a challenge to the high cost of jail calls, it claims the involved counties have allegedly turned a blind eye on the exorbitantly high prices charged by the phone companies because of the kick-backs they purportedly receive from the companies who provide the services.

This accusation is based on the reality that counties control the telephone contracts for jails within their jurisdictions and as a result, have the ability to negotiate better rates. It appears that rather than negotiate for lower costs and reduced fees, jail call rates have remained high and in the process added increased revenue to county coffers. While at the same time, the high costs of the calls are passed along to unsuspecting family members and friends of the incarcerated. These individuals pay the exorbitant fees to keep communications open between themselves and their loved ones. Although the fees can vary, most consider the rates unreasonable. Over time, counties have purportedly earned millions of dollars from these jail call charges…

Prison Phone Calls Just Got More Expensive

For families trying to stay in touch with loved ones behind bars, there is a cost.

Like most prisons and jails, the Maricopa County Sheriff’s office uses a private service like GTL to facilitate phone and video calls. On Thursday the FCC raised the rates those companies can charge for their services. Phone companies have contractual agreements with jails and prisons. When they set up those agreements, they arrange rate charges which vary with each institution.

In the past, rates were as high as a dollar a minute for some institutions. In 2013, the FCC moved to cap these rates and then expanded them in 2015. In the most recent vote, the FCC raised some rate caps from $0.22 per minute to $0.31 per minute…

Americans Don’t Care About Prison Phone Exploitation, Says FCC Official

Most Americans don’t care about the exorbitant phone charges that the nation’s 2.2 million prison inmates and their families are forced to endure just to stay in touch, a top federal communications regulator said Thursday.

Inmates in federal and state prisons across the country are forced to payoutrageously high costs for simply making phone calls to their loved ones, which is why the Federal Communications Commission has been trying to ease their financial burden.

Criminal justice reform advocates have been working to convince the federal government to crack down on exploitative prison phone practices for years, but the issue still receives too little notice on the national stage, according to FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, who issued a scathing call to conscience during the agency’s monthly meeting on Thursday…

FCC Adjusts, But Still Can’t Implement, Caps On Sky-High Rates Prisoners Pay To Call Home

We’re used to saying that someone is a “captive audience” for a major monopoly, but for the millions of Americans living behind bars, that phrase becomes painfully literal. Phone companies that connect inmates to their loved ones on the outside have for years taken advantage of their position with sky-high rates and fees, but the FCC is once again stepping in to help mitigate the problem.

Back in 2015, the FCC adopted hard caps on the rates those monopoly businesses providing inmate calling services (ICS) could charge. As we explained at the time, prior to those caps calls from prison could cost up to $14 per minute, and were filled with fees and charges that hit inmates before the even got a chance to talk to anyone…

It may soon cost more to talk to your loved ones in prison

Months after a federal court blocked a government attempt to reduce the cost of phone calls to prison inmates, regulators have approved a less aggressive set of measures that may effectively increase what it costs for families to keep in touch with their loved ones behind bars.

Thursday’s decision by the Federal Communications Commission sets new limits on what telecom companies that serve prisons and jails may charge to connect those calls. Under the new rules, inmate calls associated with state or federal prisons may not cost more than 13 cents per minute, while calls associated with jails must top out at 31 cents per minute, depending on their size.

Those rate caps are actually several cents-per-minute higher than a similar set of restrictions the FCC passed last October. Those rules would have set the rates for state and federal prisons at 11 cents per minute, for example. But it wasn’t long before the caps were challenged by telecom companies who said it would cost them more to obey the rules than they could earn to cover their expenses…