After a protracted battle to end inordinate charges for phone calls from prison that exceeded $17 for a 15-minute phone, the Federal Communications Commission voted Friday to cap the rate for interstate calls at 25 cents per minutes, meaning 15-minute calls could no longer cost more than $3.25.
The 2-1 FCC decision not only relieves the burden on inmates for whom phone calls are the primary means of contact with loved ones, including young children. It also curbs exploitation of a largely unregulated sector of the phone market, which fostered generous profits and what amounted to legalized kickbacks to states in exchange for lucrative contracts.
The effort to curb prison phone calls started with a lawsuit filed more than a decade ago that was referred to the FCC. The FCC sat on the matter for years, until it agreed in November to consider action on the matter. Factoring into the FCC’s ruling was the policy’s impact on the 2.7 million U.S. children with an incarcerated parent. Increased familial communication not only benefits those children; it also lowers the chance of inmates committing a later offense.