The $1.4B prison phone call industry gets an overhaul

Yes, that’s an industry.

Last week, Congress passed the Martha Wright-Reed Just and Reasonable Communications Act of 2022.

The act, which now just needs President Biden’s signature, will allow the Federal Communications Commission to regulate the rates of prison phone calls.

Here’s why that’s a big deal

The prison phone call industry generates ~$1.4B each year.

The Prison Policy Initiative pins the average cost of a 15-minute phone call from jail at ~$3. That doesn’t include all the other fees associated with these calls, including setting up and adding funds to required prepaid accounts.

  • In 63% of cases, inmates’ family members shoulder these bills. Among them, 83% are women. According to the Ella Baker Center, over a third of paying families go into debt over the calls.

Historically, the FCC has limited the cost of cross-state phone calls to 21 cents per minute for prepaid calls. Problem is, 80% of these calls are made in-state. With the passing of this bill, the FCC will be able to cap in-state prices.

“Today… the FCC will be granted the authority to close this glaring, painful, and detrimental loophole in our phones rate rules for incarcerated people,” FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said.

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