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Prison Phone Calls, Financial Burden To Prisoners’ Families, Get FCC Review

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Michelle Durham Michelle Durham
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By Michelle Durham

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The Federal Communications Commission is currently soliciting public comment on a proposal to reduce the cost of phone calls prisoners make to their families in another state. Currently, the families of prisoners who make calls pay two separate charges: a set-up fee and a per-minute rate, which limits the amount of contact prisoners have with their families.

FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn says the FCC is responding to two petitions released on Christmas Eve. A notice of proposed rulemaking (to read the document, click here) is the first step toward making a change.

FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn. (Credit: Federal Communications Commission)

FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn. (Credit: Federal Communications Commission)

“It would seek to secure just and reasonable long distance rates for inmate calling services.”

After the public comment term ends in about 90 days, Clyburn wants to move immediate action. She says studies show that inmates who stay in touch with their families have a lower recidivism rate and says there’s another reason officials can’t afford to wait.

“There are 2.7 million children who have at least one parent in the system. And those 2.7 million children have not stopped loving their parents.”

While this ruling won’t affect city prisons, Commissioner of Philadelphia Prisons Louis Giorla says they value communication.

“We offer a maximum of three phone calls a day for a maximum of 10 minutes free phone time.”

Giorla says it’s hard enough for today’s parents to combat all of life’s challenges to provide children the support they need, let alone if they are incarcerated. And while most of their inmates are from the local area, city prison social workers will work with those who can’t afford long distance charges.

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