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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 16 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.

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FCC should remain persistent on prison phone progress

by Aleks Kajstura, January 15, 2014

The prison and jail phone industry has been busy recently, urging the Federal Communications Commission to roll back regulations and allow companies to charge exorbitant rates and fees for calls. Meanwhile, we’ve submitted a few comments of our own, highlighting bloated payment fees and showing that phone services in jails require regulation just like in the prisons.

Although we, and the FCC, have suspected that phone companies take a cut of the fees charged by third party payment services such as Western Union, we were finally able to confirm the practice. On Monday we submitted a comment that documents the kickbacks from Western Union.

The FCC also sought additional information on the differences between jails and prisons, and whether the new phone regulations should protect people from unconscionable prices no matter where they, or their family members, are incarcerated. We demonstrated the industry’s inability to articulate a good reason to roll back regulations of jail phone services, and we urged the FCC to continue its protection for people confined in jails.

We also signed on to reply comments, along with Martha Wright, et. al, The D.C. Prisoners’ Legal Services Project, CURE, and the Campaign for Prison Phone Justice, urging the FCC to regulate fees, in-state calling, as well as tackling other issues.

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