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Telecom Industry Helps Reform U.S. Prison System

Telecom Industry Helps Reform U.S. Prison System

To digress and get off subject a little bit, the United States has one of the largest prison populations in the world. According to the latest statistics, there are well over 2.3 million individuals in prison. This represents almost 1% of the entire U.S. population. But, these numbers get even more alarming when you consider the sheer number of people on parole. In this regard, there are over four million parolees, and almost seven million adults on either court or correctional supervision.

Of course once in jail, an individual’s freedoms are all taken away. This includes even the amount of communication in which they are allowed to communicate with the outside world. This encompasses seeing both loved ones and family, in person, as well as having the ability to make phone calls as and when needed. In terms of the latter, the telecom industry is now intervening to help reform how much inmates are charged when making outbound phone calls.

This effort is being led by CenturyLink and the FCC. Together, both of these entities have outlined a five step reform program for Inmate Calling Services (ICS) rules, which includes the following:

A Uniform Cap Rate. With this provision, there would be a cap placed on the amount that can be charged for both interstate and intrastate calls. However, there would be a slightly higher cap for collect calls when they are made.

  • Cutting Back On Ancillary Fees. This part of the reform package would essentially abolish all types and kinds of extraneous fees and even allow for the consumer to get an expeditious refund on any unused, prepaid amounts.
  • A Limit Placed On Commissions. Prisons and jails have to provide their own ICS based services, so this provision would require that actual ICS providers would have to reimburse the penal system for these costs when they are incurred.
  • Separate Treatment For Higher Cost Prison Facilities. Entities, such as mental health institutions and juvenile detention centers, are often a high cost proposition for ICS providers because of the extremely low number of outbound calls that are placed. As a result, this provision would require for these treatment facilities to pay a higher portion of the ICS service expenses.
  • A Reasonable Transition Time Period. In this time of potential reform, there should be a very reasonable time period set forth for both the U.S. penal system and the various ICS providers to transition to it, so there will not be any type of service disruption.

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Valerie Stephen