Prison Legal News covers historic FCC workshop on the prison phone industry

by Leah Sakala, August 29, 2013

David Ganim of Prison Legal News wrote a great piece about last month’s FCC workshop on prison phone call charges (beginning on page 26).

The article includes a nice summary of Peter’s invited presentation on a panel about the true costs of providing prison phone service:

Peter Wagner, an attorney and executive director of the Prison Policy Initiative, who was the last panel speaker at the FCC workshop, rebutted several of the arguments made by prison phone companies and their supporters. He further addressed the issue of extra fees charged by prison phone service providers – such as fees to fund pre-paid phone accounts as well as account closure, inactivity and refund fees.

Wagner noted that 12 million people pass through the U.S. jail system annually and that the extra fees associated with prisoner calls are a means for prison phone companies to generate revenue outside the commission system, since commissions aren’t paid on fees. He said that small prison phone providers have smaller fees but that the larger companies, including Global Tel*Link and Securus, have some of the highest fees in the industry. Wagner concluded by stating the extra fees demonstrated that the prison phone industry, which he termed a “dark, neglected corner of the telecommunications industry,” is unable to regulate itself – and that to be effective, reforms must address the problem of such fees.

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