FCC Moves to Increase Public Safety, End Profiteering and Gouging of Prisoners

WASHINGTON, Aug. 9, 2013 - Today at an open meeting in Washington, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted 2-1 to cut the rates that prisoners pay for interstate phone calls. Historically, the high cost of long-distance calls from prisoners to their loved ones across state lines has negatively impacted families - damaging the relationship between inmates and their children, increasing the likelihood of inmate recidivism among incarcerated parents and, ultimately, decreasing public safety.1

"The principle of communication from prison is quite simple," said Justice Fellowship President Craig DeRoche. "People sent there who communicate regularly with family, friends, spiritual advisors and mentors looking to help them turn their lives around succeed better than those who have less communications. To decrease the chances someone will commit new crimes, it is in the best interest of the public if the corrections system allows for and facilitates more communication with prisoners."

"Prisoner communication by phone is not a privilege, as it may seem on the surface; it is a reasoned approach to reducing future crime," DeRoche said.

State prisons often contract with a single phone company, allowing the company to charge rates far higher than market price, with the prisons receiving large commissions from the phone company profits. This can result in charges of between $10 and $17 for a 15-minute collect call—more than a call to Singapore for any other long-distance caller. Justice Fellowship and other criminal justice reform organizations have long contended that these "commissions" are a regressive and highly selective tax on offenders' families, who are almost all living in poverty.

"We are extremely disappointed in GOP Commissioner Ajit Pai’s vote that puts profits above principles," added DeRoche. "While we usually agree with his perspectives, we couldn’t disagree more on this issue. Interstate phone charges represent blatant abuse, a practice that is fueled and protected by playing on the anger of those who want to punish someone in prison further than prison does for itself. The public should be walked back from the desire to hurt inmates so badly that it also hurts itself."

About Justice Fellowship
In 1983, the late Chuck Colson founded Justice Fellowship to reform the justice system according to biblical restorative justice principles so that communities are safer, victims are respected and offenders are transformed. Colson and Justice Fellowship have played a leading role in working with members of Congress to pass groundbreaking justice reforms, including:

  • Religious Freedom Restoration Act
  • Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act
  • Prison Rape Elimination Act
  • Fair Sentencing Act
  • Second Chance Act

1"Examining the Effect of Incarceration and In-Prison Family Contact on Prisoners' Family Relationships," Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice, 2005