I need your help.
I co-founded the Prison Policy Initiative to put the problem of mass incarceration — and the perverse incentives that fuel it — on the national agenda. Over the last 17 years, our campaigns have protected our democracy from the prison system and protected the poorest families in this country from the predatory prison telephone industry. Our reports untangle the statistics and recruit new allies.

But now, more than ever, we need your help to put data & compassion into the conversation. Any gift you can make today will be matched by other donors and go twice as far.

Thank you.
—Peter Wagner, Executive DirectorDonate

New York prison system tells FCC meaningful prison phone regulation is possible

New York has found that "there are significant benefits that can be attributed to lower calling rates."

by Leah Sakala, July 10, 2013

The Federal Communications Commission is holding a workshop today to gather information on regulating the high cost of calls from prisons and jails, and the New York Department of Corrections and Community Supervision is weighed in by submitting a letter.

The letter explains that New York’s prison system knows about regulating prison calling charges from personal experience. In 2007, the system eliminated its 57.7% commission and lowered the rates from $4.48 to less than $1 for a 20-minute call.

And what was the result of lowering the price to call home in New York? More families are able to stay in touch, there are fewer contraband cellphones, and family relationships are stronger when incarcerated people return home. And it’s saving the state money in reentry programs, too: “…the Call Home Program is among the most cost-effective family reunification options” offered in the New York prison system.

The only drawbacks to lowering phone charges that the letter identifies is that making calls from prison more accessible requires vigilant prison security systems (which makes sense), and that the state has had to find alternate sources of revenue to make up for banning commissions.

In sum,

…the Department’s experience indicates that inmate calling rates can be reduced substantially if states eliminate their commission on the calls, and structure competitive bidding processes that ensure that the cost of the calls is among the primary attributes of their inmate calling contracts. Moreover, there are significant benefits that can be attributed to lower calling rates that seem to outweigh the operational challenges that also attach to the process.

The FCC should take heed from New York’s experience and act quickly to rein in the outrageous rates and high fees that families are forced to pay just to stay in touch.

One Response

  1. Christine Almeida says:

    I think that it is a great idea to lower the cost of the calls a lot of family don’t have the means to communicate with their loved ones because it is so expensive to be able to keep money on the phone. I think it is important for inmates to be able to keep in contact with their loved one and be able to talk to their children, Co parenting is necessary for these children out here so they don’t feel a sense of abandonment. Lower prison calls and help families stay together.

Tweet this page Follow @PrisonPolicy on Twitter Donate

Stay Informed

Get the latest updates by signing up for our newsletters:

And our specialty lists:


Nothing scheduled right now. Invite us to to your city, college or organization.