Indiana Jails Face Budget Woes From FCC Reductions In Inmate Calling Fees

The heavy and wide footprint of the FCC is causing economic concerns for counties throughout the state of Indiana. In particular, Boone County is opposing new FCC limits on expenses for inmates to contact their family and friends.

Boone County only has a population of 57,000, and it’s municipal jail budgets are extremely tight. These new FCC regulations could reduce revenues to the county law enforcement system in the amount of $20,000 annually. These losses will affect local GED and D.A.R.E. programs.

Boone county jails charge a general inmate connection fee of $3.95, and other fees ranging from $.25 to $1.00 per minute for out-of-county connections and international calls. New FCC regulations, based on the outcomes of recent judicial rulings, will have to lower the connection fees, and closely regulate per minute inmate phone usage charges. These changes are due to reports of uncontrolled and exorbitant fees reported to exceed $14 per minute in some cases. Inmate advocates site the financial pressure of having a family member imprisoned as the prime need for a governmentally-imposed rate reduction.

Annual commissary funds generated by inmate calls in Boone county total nearly $73,000. With sweeping new legislation, that amount will likely be reduced by as much as 22 percent. This drop will cause the Boone County Sheriff’s office to ask for a boost in appropriations from their own county legislative body.

This FCC ruling will affect the entire Indiana Department of Corrections. Their budget tops $750,000 in commissary funds, which is vital to more than 82 social and community programs.

A petition has been filed by the Indiana Sheriff’s Association in the Federal Court of Appeals to stay the FCC ruling. Their claim is based on evidence that the FCC failed to consider the loss in funding for important programs that would result from an inmate phone service fee cap. Because of the FCC mandates, some jails in Indiana are considering removing phones from jails altogether.