There was widespread public outcry when it emerged that calling any of the correctional facilities in the country was costing over ten times more than the normal rate, even for the same area codes. What was even more worrying was the fact that there are certain companies that seem to be getting the lion’s share of the proceeds that come from these exploits, and an invisible hand that supports them as they keep milking the families of the prisoners dry. Research shows that a phone call to jail would cost up to $14 per minute and families of the inmates spend up to $2000 annually to stay in touch.
While the federal communications commission seemed to have helped the situation when they capped the call rates, the reality is that nothing much came out of this move. The fact that there are still private companies offering these ICT services, and that the process used to bid for the calls is still not transparent, means that the struggle is far from over for the inmates and their families. The problem may not be the phone companies per se, it is the commissions that are demanded from them by the prison systems. The companies often find themselves having to add hidden charges to the call rates to break even after paying these commissions.
These are the abuses that the system wants to put an end to. Surprisingly, companies like Securus are threatening to act against these rulings because they feel as if their hands are going to be tied. The other ways in which the family members of the prisoners are being fleeced include commissaries that help send consumables, money transfer services that sometimes charge as high as 35 percent of the money being transferred and at times even encumbrances from fees charged as part of the sentencing.
If the system is to become fair to both the inmates and their families, some serious changes need to be done.