Posted on Aug 20, 2013

One of the biggest scams in the criminal justice system is phone service. Companies pay significant amounts of money for the privilge of providing phone service in prisons. They are then granted what amounts to a monopoly, and are free to charge whatever they want. Inmates are a captive audience, and the only contact many have with the outside world is the phone system. Unfortunately, their ability to stay in touch depends on how much money they have - individual calls can easily cost $25 - $50. 

Complaints have been regularly  made to the FCC, but so far no action has been taken. That changed on August 9 when they voted to cap the maximum amount for interstate calls as 21 cents a minute, and 25 cents a minute for collect calls. They also implemented a "safe haven" rate of 12 cents and 14 cents a minute, which will be presumed to be reasonable. 

The regulations apply only to interstate calls, so this probably has little impact on local inmates. Nevertheless, it's a good first step.

The commission also prohibits companies from including the costs to secure a contract in the rate calculations. I assume the idea is to provide some incentive to limit the amounts paid to the local, state and federal institutions who run the prisons.

McLennan County is like most institutions. There is a company who provides phone service, which allows inmates to make collect calls. Since most of those calls are probably within the state, these regulations may not have a big impact. Presumably it will have some impact on out of state calls. And who knows - now that ice has been program inmates may soon bee able to call home cheaper - and therefore more often.


Walter Reaves
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Criminal Defense Attorney Walter Reaves has been practicing law for over 35 years.