These rates are set when a prison signs a contract with a company to provide service. In many cases, phone companies offer to collect additional “commissions” from consumers that are passed on to the facility—costs that are borne by family members, friends, clergy, lawyers and counselors. Predatory rates can be addressed in two ways: 1) federal and state regulators can require phone companies to charge rates that are just and reasonable; 2) federal state and local governments that run carceral facilities can stop negotiating outrageous rates and can choose, instead, to absorb the cost of calls, just like other utilities, to make them free for families and loved ones.
At the national level, UCC Media Justice is working with members of Congress and the Federal Communications Commission to address this issue. UCC Media Justice also supports a coalition that is working at the state and local level to promote free calls for prisoners. We support campaigns around the country, like Connect Families Now to campaign for free calls at the state and local level.