A report released today, “The Price To Call Home: State-Sanctioned Monopolization In The Prison Phone Industry,” reveals that the monopolistic prison phone industry’s high calling rates are jeopardizing public safety and taxing poor communities. The three phone companies that dominate 90% of the industry negotiate exclusive contracts with state prison systems, set calling rates that are excessively high, and “kick back” a portion of the revenue to the states, all at the expense of the real consumers: incarcerated people and their families.
The result is that the low-income communities that incarcerated people disproportionately come from must struggle to pay phone rates that are far higher than rates charged outside prison walls. “Phone prices have plummeted for almost everyone in the U.S. in recent years,” said report author Drew Kukorowski. “The one exception is people who have family members in prison. Those folks are still paying astronomical rates.”
The report concludes that there is a clear solution: the Federal Communications Commission, the government body charged with regulating telecommunications, must step in to cap the rates phone companies are allowed to charge in prisons. “Low rates in New York and the federal prison system demonstrate that it is possible for phone companies to cover expenses and bring in a profit while making it less difficult for incarcerated people and their families to stay in touch,” Kukorowski explained.
Facilitating incarcerated people’s ability to communicate with their families, the report observes, would also promote public safety and reduce recidivism. “Study after study confirms what we know from common sense: It’s in everyone’s best interest to make sure that incarcerated people maintain strong connections to family members on the outside. There are 2.7 million children in this country that have a parent who is incarcerated. We need to ensure that those families can afford to stay in touch,” said Kukorowski.
The report, published by the Prison Policy Initiative, a non-profit, non-partisan research center, is available at http://www.prisonpolicy.org/phones/