How much does a prison phone call cost?

Some rights reserved by David Hepburn

Photo: David Hepburn, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Yesterday, the Prison Policy Initiative released its report, “Please Deposit All of Your Money: Kickbacks, Rates, and Hidden Fees in the Jail Phone Industry.” It’s out just as the Federal Communications Commission has to decide whether to cap the price of prison phone calls, the outcome of a lawsuit and petition more than ten years in the making. The report also covers the cost of jail phone calls, which hasn’t gotten as much attention until now.

The average surcharge for each prison phone call is between four and five dollars. And per minute, most companies charge 90 cents. So for the average fifteen minute phone call, you’re talking somewhere around eighteen dollars.

The report includes “the first ever estimate of the amount that the families of incarcerated people spend on phone fees every year: $386 million.” That’s not for calls—it’s just for the fees. The authors go on: “Many of these fees are disguised by official-sounding names, but the majority (if not all) do not appear to be actually required by the government.” Fees with names like, “Carrier Cost Recovery Fee,” “Federal Cost Recovery Surcharge,”Regulatory Cost Recovery Fee.” and “Network Infrastructure Fee.”


Have you ever had to navigate these fees? What do you see as “fair” when it comes to prison phone calls? Who do you think should set the rates for these companies?



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