Federal appeals court partially blocks price cap on prison calls
Mar 08, 2016 01:32 AM EST
A federal appellate court temporarily blocked an order by the Federal Communications Commissions that would cap the price that inmates pay to make phone calls.
The Federal Communications Commission proposes to cut down US prison telephone charges for local and long-distance calls to 11 cents a minute, from rates as high as $14 a minute. The Hill reported that the US Court of Appeals for the D.C Circuit partially stayed the imposition of the said new regulation as a broader lawsuit moves forward. The new rules, which are slated to be implemented later this month, aims to lower the prices that prisoners and their families pay to talk on the phone.
Although the court issued an order putting on hold the new rule which lower rate caps, it allowed the elimination of ancillary fees to take effect immediately, says ABA Journal. The elimination of those fees will take effect on March 17 for prisons, and June 20 for jails.
Several prison companies had filed a lawsuit against the FCC, asking the court to overturn the rate cut. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and Commissioner Mignon Clyburn said these fees can increase the cost to consumers of a call by nearly 40 percent. In October, the FCC voted 3-2 in favor of cutting all local and long-distance rates to 11 cents a minute for prepaid and debit calls from federal and state prisons.
According to Reuters, the commission had cut interstate rates to an interim rate of 21 cents a minute in prepaid and debit calls in 2013. The cost of a prison call has then increased to $14 a minute when extra fees were tacked on.
Among the states who sought to join the lawsuits opposing the caps include Indiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, Kansas, Wisconsin, Arizona, Arkansas, and Nevada. The FCC said in a court document that its order was a firmly grounded exercise of the commission's statutory authority to ensure that charges for inmate calling services are fair and not excessive.