Reach out to someone
It is well-settled that prison inmates who have regular contact with family and friends are less likely to return to prison after their release.
Yet for decades, prisons across the country have inhibited that contact by maintaining outlandish phone rates that severely limit the ability of inmates, and often their impoverished families, to stay in touch.
According to the Federal Communications Commission, inmates or their families are charged between 50 cents and $3.50 to make a call and up to 89 cents per minute thereafter, plus assorted fees. The agency said some 15-minute calls have cost as much as $17.
The commission is no hero here but it finally has done the right thing. After failing to vote for a decade on a petition that was filed in 2003, the commission voted 2-1 Thursday to cap the relevant rates at 21 cents per minute for debit or prepaid calls and 25 cents for collect calls.
Unfortunately, the decision applies only to interstate rates, while many prisons also charge draconian prices for local and intrastate calls. The FCC plans a separate case to address those rates.
Prisons and phone companies have tried to justify the outlandish rates by claiming that the revenue helps pay for security, but it is little more than gouging a literally captive audience.
The FCC was right to finally thwart the practice. It should expedite the process dealing with non-interstate calls.