FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn has recently spoken out against the high price many U.S. citizens are paying just to stay in contact with their incarcerated family members.


According to Clyburn, a family could spend an average of $500 a month for their phone calls with someone in prison. With the prison telephone rates set around $1 per minute, calls with loved ones have to stay short, or they risk running a high bill that they may not be able to afford. Clyburn believes these costs are hurting “the most economically vulnerable families.”               


FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn

(Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

“They’re being weighted with a burden, not only of a loved one who might have been the primary bread-winner — now that bread-winner is gone, and now that family is in essence being overly taxed,” said Clyburn.  


In 2014, Clyburn helped enact change in the prison inmate phone call business after some were paying up to $17 for 15 minutes of conversation. The FCC responded to these high costs by placing new rate caps on the phone service. This rule made it much more affordable to stay in contact with incarcerated individuals, but it’s still putting a financial burden on many families.  


The inmate telephone business is a multi-billion dollar industry, and some of the biggest service providers have been resistant to reducing prices. Securus is the second largest inmate phone provider in the United States, and the company’s president, Richard Smith, has fought the FCC’s rate caps. According to Smith, the rate caps placed in 2014 were below the company’s cost.


While companies like Securus are battling lower phone rates, the FCC has been petitioned to regulate the high costs. Clyburn stated on Tuesday that the FCC has the chance to adjust these prices to more “reasonable rates” that would make prison phone calls more affordable for U.S. families.    


Should the prison telephone rates get lowered once again? How would lowering the rates affect prison telephone service providers? Leave a comment or talk to me on Twitter @Karbowski_Devon.