Office of Communications, Inc.

UCC Media Justice Update

Inmate Communications Justice Benefits from New Bipartisan Effort

Sens. Duckworth, Booker, Portman, Schatz introduced today a finely crafted bill that will rightfully return to the FCC its authority to stop predatory prison phone rates across the country. 


"This bill is a much-needed remedy to an extremely detrimental court decision last year," said Cheryl A. Leanza, policy advisor to the United Church of Christ's media justice ministry, OC Inc., a primary backer of the bill. "Families, clergy and loved ones have been suffering for decades and the new legislation will restore power to the Federal Communications Commission to establish just and reasonable rates."


After a decade of delay, between 2012 and 2016, the Federal Communications Commission began to address predatory rates to telephone people in prison, jail and detention centers. Over those years the FCC reigned in long distance rates to 21 and 25 cents per minute, capped local rates at the same levels with a few exceptions for smaller jails, and imposed limits on the egregious fees which accompany inmate calling. These rulings were viciously attacked in the courts.


Inmate calling companies and a few states (led by then Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt) sued to stop the FCC's rules. Partially in response to an FCC that did not fully defend the rules, a federal appellate court blocked the rules and cramped the authority granted to the FCC. In one most egregious example, the court concluded that the term "fair" meant that rates should be fair to phone companies but need not be fair to consumers. 


Ms. Leanza explained, "the Inmate Technical Correction Act is a critical step to ensuring that previous efforts at the FCC are reestablished." FCC Chairman Pai and Commissioner Carr articulated the need for legislation in their confirmation hearing; Commissioners Clyburn and Rosenworcel are outspoken supporters of ending the abuse of consumers in this market.


"The entire prison phone justice community owes a debt of gratitude to Senators Duckworth, Booker, Portman and Schatz for joining together and backing this legislation. No one believes the inmate communications market is working, and this bill will put fairness to consumers back into the equation," said Cheryl A. Leanza, policy advisor for the United Church of Christ's media justice ministry, OC Inc.

Categories: prison phone


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