Criminal offender recidivism rates are of significant concern. The reality is that a high percentage of incarcerated criminal offenders will commit new crimes when they return to the community.
One factor that is proven to reduce the recidivism rate is the ability of an inmate to maintain meaningful, consistent contact with loved ones in the outside world. The key way in which an inmate maintains contact with family and friends is through use of the telephone.
Historically, the rates associated with inmate phone calls were extremely high. This prompted the Federal Communications, FCC, to intervene. The FCC has an official mandate to ensure that telephone rates are fair, reasonable, and just. This includes phone calls between inmates and loved ones.
Overview of Inmate Telephone Systems
Generally speaking, inmate telephone systems can be utilized in one of three ways. They can be accessed with collect calls, debit accounts, or prepaid accounts. IN addition, in the vast majority of situations, an inmate has only one telephone provider available.
In the inmate communications industry today, there are only a handful of providers in the first instance. In nearly every case, an inmate service provider has an exclusive contract with a correctional agency. Indeed, there is one provider of inmate telephone systems that has a lock on a strong majority of correctional agencies at this juncture in time.
Action by the FCC
In response to what it perceived as unfair pricing by inmate telephone service providers, the FCC has started to take action against in the industry. The FCC has created a cap on the rate these companies can charge for inmate telephone calls. Although the cap was supposed to go into effect by the spring of 2017, it has been delated. The proposed cap has been challenged by companies in the industry. A court has placed a temporary injunction on the cap the FCC desires to put in place.
The FCC is diligently trying to garner approval from the court for its rate cap. There is no specific time frame yet set by the court in regard to when a final decision will be made regarding the pending the judicial challenge to the rate cap the FCC desires to implement.
There is a partial interim cap in place that has not been impacted by the court’s decision. The interim cap applied only to interstate long distance inmate telephone calls. It does not apply to intrastate long distance inmate telephone calls.
In addition to attempting to reduce rates associated with inmate telephone calls, the FCC also has taken action to place caps on other fees. These include fees for such things as automated payments, which are undertaken at some institutions through the inmate telephone system.
The FCC has also interceded to preclude inmate telephone service providers from requiring minimum balances on a prepaid phone card. In addition, the FCC now prohibits an inmate telephone service provider from placing a maximum that can be deposited on a prepaid card that is less than $50.