Alabama should implement proposed prison phone reform

by Aleks Kajstura, November 14, 2013

The Alabama Public Service Commission is still seeking comments on a recent order proposing to cap all prison and jail call rates and place strict limits on fees and other charges (summarized here).

Yesterday, we submitted the following letter in support of the Commission’s proposed regulations:

November 13, 2013

Walter L. Thomas, Jr., Secretary
Alabama Public Service Commission
P.O. Box 304260
Montgomery, AL 36130

Dear Commissioners:

We are writing in support of your Order Proposing Revised Inmate Phone Service Rules (Oct. 7, 2013, Docket 15957).[1] As the Executive Director and Legal Director of the Prison Policy Initiative, we have investigated the high cost of calls from correctional facilities and would first like to thank you for addressing the issue of fees in your proposal.

We believe that regulating fees is an integral part of comprehensive regulation of prison and jail phone companies, and we commend Alabama for being the first state to, in our knowledge, directly address this major but hidden part of the industry.

Our research found that fees make up 38% of the $1 billion customers spend on prison and jail phone calls each year.[2] Your action to address fees is essential because simply capping rates would, as our report argues, be ineffective at protecting consumers if the industry was still free to continue to create additional fees out of thin air.

We agree with your conclusion that commissions paid to correctional facilities are ultimately to blame for both the high rates and fees charged by prison and jail phone companies. For that reason, the Prison Policy Initiative supports the proposed rules that would reign in both the exorbitant rates and fees now charged to Alabama consumers.

Sincerely,

Peter Wagner, Executive Director
Aleks Kajstura, Legal Director

[1]Our legal director, Aleks Kajstura, reviewed your proposal in light of our own findings on the high costs of prison and jail phone calls in “Alabama seeks to curb high cost of prison and jail phone calls” available at http://www.prisonpolicy.org/blog/2013/10/09/alabama-proposes/.

[2] Please Deposit All of Your Money: Kickbacks, Rates, and Hidden Fees in the Jail Phone Industry, by Drew Kukorowski, Peter Wagner, and Leah Sakala (May 8, 2013), available at http://www.prisonpolicy.org/phones/pleasedeposit.html and attached.

The deadline for submitting comments is December 6, 2013.

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