Regulating the prison phone industry
Some children have to pay $1/minute to talk to an incarcerated parent. Why? Because prisons and jails profit by granting monopoly telephone contracts to the company that will charge families the most.
For more than ten years, families had been calling on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to provide relief from the exorbitant bills that the prison phone companies charge just to stay in touch. Recognizing yet another way that mass incarceration punishes entire communities, the Prison Policy Initiative joined with partners across the country to help generate the research and advocacy that was necessary for change.
We’ve won some real victories at the FCC, we’re fighting the industry’s lawsuit against fair regulation, and keeping this industry and the perverse incentives it offers the sheriffs in the news.
On this page:
In addition to submitting our reports, we’ve been submitting regular updates to the FCC docket with new data and information and responses to FCC requests.
- Ownership interests and single call loophole, March 10, 2016
- Video visitation, February 8, 2016
- FCC has jurisdiction over electronic messaging/email, February 8, 2016
- Electronic messaging, January 19, 2016
- Closing the “Single Call” loophole, January 19, 2016
- Closing the Western Union and MoneyGram loophole, January 19, 2016
- Closing the “bundling unrelated services” loophole, January 19, 2016
- Video visitation update, January 19, 2016
- The industry’s campaign contributions exemplify why the FCC should focus on lowering the total cost of calls and not the varied forms of payments that commissions take, August 12, 2015
- Address video visitation immediately after comprehensive regulation of the phones industry, July 6, 2015
- The state of the movement for prison phone justice, June 12, 2015
- Reply to comments of local government officials, addressing why they don’t need kickbacks on phone contracts, January 27, 2015
- Despite Idaho DOC’s claims, regulation is not increasing per-minute rates, January 26, 2015
- Fees continue to increase the cost of calls, January 12, 2015
- The need to regulate in-state rates, January 12, 2015
- Prison and jail phone companies seizing customer money (aka how the companies violate state laws re: unclaimed funds), January 12, 2015
- Single-call programs undermine regulation, January 12, 2015
- FCC should reject Securus, Global Tel*Link, and Telmate’s joint proposal, January 12, 2015
- The need for advanced communication services in prisons and jails, January 12, 2015
- Video visitation and email services, December 23, 2013
- The multiple incarnations of kickbacks that prison phone companies give to prisons and jails, August 1, 2013
- A searchable version of the 12-375 and 96-128 prison telephone dockets, July 17, 2013
- The difference between prisons and jails, July 17, 2013
- Since ‘Please Deposit All of Your Money’ some small companies have lowered their fees and improved policies, while other companies have been discovered to have charges and policies even worse than previously understood, July 17, 2013
- Peter Wagner’s presentation at the FCC’s July 11, 2013 Workshop on Reforming Inmate Calling Services
- On December 13, 2013, in partnership with SumOfUs, we submitted a petition with 23,585 public comments urging the FCC to regulate in-state prison phone call charges.
- On September 26, the FCC released its Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, detailing the new regulation of the prison phone industry (a nuts-and-bolts summary of the regulation is on our blog).
- On Friday August 9, 2013 the FCC voted to approve regulation of the prison phone industry. Missed seeing it live? Watch the FCC’s video of the meeting, and stay tuned for more details when the official text of the ruling is available.
- Peter Wagner presented on a panel at the FCC’s public day-long workshop about regulating the prison phone industry on July 10th, 2013 in Washington, DC.
- The NAACP passed a resolution calling on the FCC to regulate the prison phone industry.
- On December 26, 2012 the Federal Communications Commission issued a Notice for Proposed Rulemaking, taking the first step towards federal regulation of prison calling rates.
- At a rally on November 15, in partnership with SumOfUs, we submitted a petition to the FCC signed by 36,690 people around the country calling for federal regulation of predatory prison telephone rates.
- Congressional Representative Keith Ellison cited our prison phone report in an October 2, 2012 letter to the Federal Communications Commission calling on the commission to regulate prison phone rates.
- Congressional Representatives Henry A. Waxman and Bobby L. Rush cited our prison phone report in a September 12, 2012 letter to the Federal Communications Commission calling on the commission to take action to lower prison phone rates.
Our work in the news
- NBA Pistons Owner Under Fire for Deal on Inmate Phone Service, by Todd Shields, Bloomberg, July 24, 2017
- The Feds Persuaded Oregon to Scrap Its Exploitive Prison Phone Contract—Until the State Decided It Needed the Money, by Nigel Jaquiss, Willamette Week, May 10, 2017
- The strange case of prison phone calls, by Tony Wagner, Marketpace, February 9, 2017
- The FCC’s legal battle over prison phones just took a weird turn, by Colin Lecher, The Verge, February 6, 2016
- FCC made a case for limiting cost of prison phone calls. Not anymore., by Ann E. Marimow, The Washington Post, February 5, 2016
- Bad call service: Trump’s new FCC chief will help decide the fate of absurdly expensive prisoner phone calls, by Eric Markowitz, Vice News, January 27, 2017
- Families spend millions on phone calls from Louisiana inmates, by Jonathan Bullington and Richard A. Webster, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune , January 11, 2017
- Cost of prison services locking inmates' families down and out, by Eric Easter, The Charlotte Post, December 16, 2016
- US prisons now offer inmates ‘electronic messaging,’ but it’s not really e-mail, by Max Lewontin, The Christian Science Monitor, January 22, 2016
- The FCC Should Ensure Digital Rights for Prisoners and Their Families, by Dave Maass and Aaron Mackey, Electronic Frontier Foundation, January 20, 2016
- Should State Profit From Exorbitant Cost Of Prison Phone Calls?, by Rui Kaneya, Civil Beat, December 23, 2015
- F.C.C. Makes Telephone Calls for Inmates Cheaper, by The Editorial Board, The New York Times, October 26, 2015
- Why the FCC voted to cap ‘predatory’ prison phone rates, by Max Lewontin, The Christian Science Monitor, October 22, 2015
- FCC gives inmates price break on prison phone calls, by Vera Bergengruen, McClatchy DC, October 22, 2015
- ‘Huge Step’: FCC Slashes Costs of Prison Phone Calls, by Tracy Connor, NBC News, October 22, 2015
- The US just lifted a crushing burden on prison inmates and their families, by Hanna Kozlowska, Quartz, October 22, 2015
- FCC Will Cap Prison Phone Rates, And That’s Bad News For These Two Tech Companies, by Eric Markowitz, International Business Times, October 22, 2015
- Prison Phone Company Fights to Keep Profiting Off Inmates And Their Families, by Ben Walsh, The Huffington Post, October 21, 2015
- Peter Wagner on The Real News Network’s Rattling the Bars, Ep. 1: ‘The Real Cost of Calls’, October 13, 2015
- At LCCC, prison riot starts with a phone, by James Brooks, Juneau Empire, October 9, 2015
- Who profits from the billion-dollar prison phone business?, Peter Wagner on Al Jazeera’s America Tonight, September 30, 2015
- New group to review Iowa’s criminal justice policies, by Kathy A. Bolten, Des Moines Register, August 28, 2015
- Illinois and Cook County reconsider profits from inmate phone calls, by Adeshina Emmanuel and Olivia Exstrum, Chicago Reporter, August 19, 2015
- Private companies profit from pay-to-play phone calls in US prisons, Lindsay France, RT, August 13, 2015
- Private Tech Firms Securus, GTL Offer Jails Million-Dollar Payments, Tablet Computers For Exclusive Phone Contracts, by Eric Markowitz, International Business Times, July 10, 2015
- Inside the Shadowy Business of Prison Phone Calls, by Eric Markowitz, International Business Times, July 2, 2015
- Phone rates for prison inmates exploitative, counterproductive, Editorial Board, The Boston Globe,
April 28, 2015
- Steep Costs of Inmate Phone Calls Are Under Scrutiny, by Timothy Williams, The New York Times, March 30, 2015
- Reach Out and Pay Someone, by Dirk VanderHart, The Portland Mercury, March 4, 2015
- Exploiting Inmates, by Sukey Lewis, East Bay Express, February 4, 2015
- Serial’s $2,500 Phone Bill and the Prison-Calling Racket, by Joshua Brustein, Bloomberg Businessweek,
December 17, 2014
- Jail contractor calls for end to free local phone calls, by Dermot Cole, Alaska Dispatch News, December 13, 2014
- The FCC Looks into the Prison Telephone Racket, by Beth Schwartzapfel, The Marshall Project, December 4, 2014
- Captive Audience: Counties and Private Businesses Cash in on Video Visits at Jails, by Amy Silverstein, Dallas Observer, November 26, 2014
- FCC regulations, a big step forward, by Peter Wagner, National Association of Counties County News, November 17, 2014
- Editorial: A price too high for calls from jail, by Editorial Board, The Dallas Morning News, November 10, 2014
- Alabama inmates can call home for less under new phone plan approved by Public Service Commission, by Mike Cason, AL.com, October 8, 2014
- Federal regulators float an aggressive new plan to cut the cost of prison calls, by Nancy Scola, The Washington Post, September 25, 2014
- It’s a bad idea to limit jail inmate visits to video, by Bob Ray Sanders, Star-Telegram, September 14, 2014
- [San Francisco] Officials looking to reduce price of jail inmates’ phone calls, by Lee Romney, Los Angeles Times, July 6, 2014
- Orange Is the New Green: Is Knox County’s New Video-Only Visitation Policy for Inmates Really About Safety — or Is it About Money?, Cari Wade Gervin, Metro Pulse (Knoxville, Tenn.), July 2, 2014
- The Father’s Day Profiteers That Put Hallmark to Shame, by Leah Sakala, Huffington Post, June 13, 2014
- Video Visitation Could Exploit Prisoners, or Help Families, by Peter Wagner, “Room for Debate” The New York Times, February 24, 2014
- FCC Bests Prison Telephone Industry Just in Time for Valentine’s Day, by Leah Sakala and Peter Wagner, Huffington Post, February 12, 2014
- FCC caps rates for prison phone calls, by John Ketchum, Marketplace Wealth and Poverty, Thursday, February 12, 2014
- Phoning From Prison, at Prices Through the Roof, by David Segel, New York Times, February 2, 2014
- Unfair Phone Charges for Inmates, New York Times editorial, January 6, 2014
- Prison Phone Call Industry Will Fight New FCC Rules Lowering Rates For Inmates, by Matt Sledge, Huffington Post, September 9, 2013
- FCC caps cost of phone calls to prison inmates, by Andrew McGill, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, August 10, 2013
- Regulators vote to reduce rates for prison phone calls, Ian Simpson, Reuters, August 9, 2013
- The Tyranny Of Prison Phone Charges: ‘Inmates Charged Five Times Usual Rate’, by Matt Stroud, Forbes, July 21, 2013
- Phone Companies In State Prisons Charge Inmates Exorbitant Prices, Give Jails Kickbacks, Group Finds, by Alexander C. Kaufman, International Business Times, June 18, 2013
- Counties profit from inmate calls, by Dan Klepal, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, June 16, 2013
- Why does it cost so much for prisoners to keep in touch with their families?, The Economist, May 25, 2013
- Prisons rob inmates by gouging phone call prices, RT America, January 4, 2013
- FCC proposes changes to lower pay-phone rates for prisoners, by Christina Mai-Duc, Los Angeles Times, December 28, 2012
- Hi-Priced Cell Calls, Brian Lehrer Show, December 12, 2012
- Costly Prison Phone Calls Frustrate Families, by Maggie Clark, Stateline, December 4, 2012
- A Needless Charge for Prison Families, by the New York Times editorial board, November 28, 2012
- Kickbacks exploit inmates’ families, by Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr., Chicago Sun-Times, November 27, 2012
- Prison-industrial complex charges inmates enormous fees for phone calls, RT America, November 20, 2012
- Prison-Phone Rate Cuts Considered by U.S. Regulators, by Todd Shields, Bloomberg Businessweek, November 15, 2012
- State PSC considers lowering ‘sinful’ prison phone rates, by Katy Reckdahl, The Lens, November 15, 2012
- The Price to Call Home: State-Sanctioned Monopolization in the Prison Phone Industry, by Drew Kukorowski, reprinted and adapted for Prison Legal News, October 2012 issue
- FCC Looks Likely to Cap Phone Rates for Prisoners, by Kaukab Jhumra Smith, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, October 12, 2012
- Prison Phones Prove Captive Market for Private Equity, by Todd Shields, Bloomberg Businessweek, October 4, 2012
- A Dollar a Minute to Talk to Dad, letter to the editor by Kaytee Riek and Rob Wohl of SumOfUs, Valley Advocate, October 4, 2012
- Kickbacks and Exorbitant Charges Rife In The Monopolized Prison Phone Industry, Pete Brook, Prison Photography Blog, October 2, 2012
- The First Call Is Free; the Rest Are a Fortune, Nancy Scola, American Prospect, October 1, 2012
- Families Urge the FCC to Lower Price of Prison Phone Calls, Jorge Rivas, Colorlines, September 27, 2012
- Campaign Pressures FCC to Roll Back Exorbitant Expense of Prison Phone Calls, Melinda Tuhus, Between the Lines, September 26, 2012
- Costly Phone Calls for Inmates, by the New York Times editorial board, September 24, 2012
- Flying Kites to the FCC Demanding Fair Phone Call Rates for Prisoners and Their Families, Mike Ludwig, Truthout, September 21, 2012
Our blog posts on the topic:
- Timeline: The 18-year battle for prison phone justice
Journalists and others often ask about how the movement for phone justice began and why this is taking so long. Here are the key dates: 2000: Martha Wright, a....
by Peter Wagner, December 17, 2018
- Securus asks FCC to look the other way while it expands; advocates and families call its bluff
In our rebuttal to Securus, we disprove the company's claims of healthy competition in the prison phone market.
by Aleks Kajstura, July 31, 2018
- New York City to make all calls from jail free
New York City becomes the first jurisdiction to make calls home from jails free. Who else is going to follow this smart step?
by Peter Wagner, July 19, 2018
- Comment letter: Florida’s Department of Corrections should not reduce visitation
In our letter to the Florida Department of Corrections, we explain why cutting visiting hours is bad policy and an inhumane practice.
by Lucius Couloute, May 31, 2018
- Your location data: free to anyone with a Securus contract
For nearly a year, the FCC knew about Securus’s cellphone tracking and turned a blind eye.
by Aleks Kajstura, May 11, 2018
- Senate bill targets recalcitrant FCC; revitalizes federal fight to lower the cost of calling home
Senators introduced S 2520 in bipartisan effort to put FCC back on track in regulating the cost of calling home from prison or jail.
by Aleks Kajstura, March 12, 2018
- Growing momentum in the fight to preserve in-person visits
New policy changes and legislative efforts designed to address correctional visitation policies are helping to chip away at the inhuman treatment of incarcerated people across the United States.
by Lucius Couloute, March 5, 2018
- Findings from Knox County, Tenn.: Replacing in-person visits with video calling is bad policy
A new report highlights how the replacement of in-person visits with video calling makes jails less safe, but more profitable for sheriffs.
by Lucius Couloute, January 30, 2018
- The Guardian and Colorado Public Radio raise urgent questions about the video calling industry
Virtual jail "visits" are quietly sweeping the country. Fortunately, a surge of hard-hitting journalism is pushing back, illuminating the exploitative practice of eliminating family visits in favor of video calls.
by Lucius Couloute, December 14, 2017
- A few thoughts on legislative compromises
We've had to make tough compromises in our work to protect in-person jail visits. We share some of the considerations we confronted in the hopes of supporting other advocates.
by Bernadette Rabuy, November 20, 2017
- Jail phone companies flood money into sheriff races
New research shows jail phone companies contributing significant sums to Sheriff's campaigns, in one case funding a quarter of Sheriff's campaign spending.
by Aleks Kajstura, October 12, 2017
- Video Conferencing Enthusiasts Slam Replacement of In-Person Jail Visits with Video Calls
Video conferencing enthusiasts agree: video calls are not the same as in-person visits
by Bernadette Rabuy, September 26, 2017
- Comment letter: Maine’s Department of Corrections should not allow correctional facilities to eliminate in-person visitation.
After the Maine DOC solicited comments on the proposed changes to its visitation policies, we submitted a letter detailing why the elimination of in-person visits would hurt families.
by Lucius Couloute, September 7, 2017
- California legislators continue fighting for in-person jail visits
California legislators hold hearing on video calls and sharply criticize the dangers of banning in-person visits
by Bernadette Rabuy, September 6, 2017
- Prison phone giant GTL gets bigger, again.
GTL has purchased competitor Telmate, meaning higher prices for families and facilities. We examine GTL and Securus domination of the industry.
by Peter Wagner, August 28, 2017
- Voices that matter: Incarcerated people on video calling
If policymakers are legitimately concerned about making the transition out of correctional facilities as smooth as possible, they must incorporate the visitation-related concerns of incarcerated people. This post examines a few of those important concerns.
by Lucius Couloute, August 9, 2017
- Securus’ claims of low rates undermined by Securus’ actual rates
Securus claims average rates of under 20 cents a minute, Wright Petitioners find no rates under 50 cents in all of Michigan.
by Aleks Kajstura, July 31, 2017
- Senator Tammy Duckworth introduces the Video Visitation and Inmate Calling in Prisons Act of 2017
Senator Tammy Duckworth recently introduced the Video Visitation and Inmate Calling in Prisons Act of 2017. This piece of legislation is an important step in the fight against exploitation in prisons and jails, and we encourage lawmakers, criminal justice professionals, and the general public to support its passing.
by Lucius Couloute, July 24, 2017
- Vice News Tonight examines the exploitative video visitation industry
Vice News Tonight examines the growth of the exploitive video visitation industry; highlighting the human toll of switching from the real thing to an artificial – and costly – substitute.
by Lucius Couloute, June 28, 2017
- Advocates ask FCC to block sale of Securus, investigate prison phone giant’s disregard for regulations
Securus fights against regulations and then flouts the ones that survive. FCC should investigate, not approve sale.
by Aleks Kajstura, June 21, 2017
- For families of incarcerated dads, Father’s day comes at a premium
Over 1.5 million children have a father incarcerated in prison today. As Father's day approaches, millions of children will be without their fathers, and without the ability to pay the outrageous fees associated with speaking to them. State lawmakers should take the initiative to better regulate prison telecom companies, and most importantly, reduce the number of incarcerated people.
by Lucius Couloute, June 13, 2017
- Detroit Pistons owner about to squeeze fans in a new way, buying Securus
If Tom Gores and Platinum Equity are trying to improve lives, Securus is the wrong investment. As the second-largest prison and jail telecom company in the country, is arguably one of the most exploitative companies profiting from mass incarceration.
by Wendy Sawyer, May 18, 2017
- In their own words: The value of in-person visitation to families
As sheriffs consider eliminating in-person visitation in jails, the firsthand experiences of incarcerated people and their families remind us that in-person visitation is crucial to the reentry process and reducing recidivism.
by Emily Widra, May 9, 2017
- American Correctional Association says that video visitation should not replace in-person visits
We are thrilled to see the ACA support the common sense idea that emerging technologies should supplement, not replace, in person visits.
by Lucius Couloute, April 24, 2017
- Phone Tag to Computer Hack: Securus puts privacy at risk
Are providers of prison communication services allowing unrestricted access to the personal computers and conversations of incarcerated people and their loved ones?
by Stephen Raher, April 24, 2017
- Protecting incarcerated people and their loved ones from the video visitation industry
Some legislators are beginning to take notice of the abusive video visitation industry. Policymakers across the country should consider adopting legislation so that incarcerated people and their families are not prevented from face-to-face contact during difficult times.
by Lucius Couloute, April 10, 2017
- Court hears industry lawsuit against FCC regulation of prison and jail telephone industry
We explain what's next and what the families can expect on telephone justice.
by Peter Wagner, February 8, 2017
- Support for in-person visitation continues to grow
From state and federal legislation to the press, support for in-person visits continues to grow.
by Bernadette Rabuy, February 1, 2017
- Evading regulation, some in-state phone calls from jails cost over $1.50 a minute
The first ever national survey of in-state jail phone rates finds some jails charge more than $1.50 a minute.
by Aleks Kajstura, January 19, 2017
- Congress and NPR tackle phone justice and video visitation this week
NPR covers video visitation, and reform legislation is introduced in Congress.
by Peter Wagner, December 8, 2016
- In-person visits return to jails in Travis County, Texas!
For the first time since 2013, in-person visits will be allowed at Travis County jails.
by Alison Walsh, April 19, 2016
- Travis County, Texas: A Case Study on Video Visitation
Travis County, Texas' experience shows: video visitation often fails to meet expectations.
by Emily Widra, April 18, 2016
- What families can expect to be charged for phone calls
The federal courts have issued a second stay of the FCC's October 2015 order. Families should expect caps and bans on ancillary fees.
by Bernadette Rabuy, March 24, 2016
- Despite court stay, Mississippi sets new phone rates in accordance with FCC order
Mississippi just slashed its phone rates beyond what was required. What does that say to the states challenging the FCC's original order?
by Alison Walsh, March 23, 2016
- What families can expect from the new FCC rules
We explain what rates and fees to expect thanks to the FCC's October 2015 order and when for prisons and jails.
by Peter Wagner, March 17, 2016
- Indiana, Oklahoma, and Arkansas undermine their own criminal justice reform agenda with challenge of FCC regulation of prison phone industry
Just what are governors who talk about the need for prison reform doing trying to stop the FCC's historic effort to protect the families of incarcerated people from exploitative prison phone companies?
by Emily Widra, March 14, 2016
- FCC, your work isn’t over. Protect families from advanced communication services.
Our latest comments urging the FCC to regulate advanced communication services in correctional facilities.
by Alison Walsh, February 12, 2016
- FCC’s next regulations should cinch loopholes and address video visitation
In response to the FCC's request for comments, we submitted four analyses of unresolved issues
by Aleks Kajstura, January 21, 2016
- Iowa Governor pledges to address cost of prison and jail phone calls
The Iowa Governor's Working Group On Justice Policy takes up our recommendations on phone justice.
by Peter Wagner, December 28, 2015
- FCC publishes order, seeks further comments
On Friday, the FCC's latest order was published in the Federal Register.
by Aleks Kajstura, December 21, 2015
- Prison profiteers use campaign contributions to buy contracts
How do the campaign contributions of the prison phone industry compare to those of the private prison industry?
by Peter Wagner, November 25, 2015
- FCC passes order to regulate prison and jail telephone industry
The Federal Communications Commission today approved a new order regulating the prison and jail telephone industry and reducing the cost of calling home from prisons and jails
by Peter Wagner, October 22, 2015
- What can states do after the FCC has ruled?
We have two ideas for state legislative strategies to further reduce the cost of calling home from prisons and jails.
by Peter Wagner, October 21, 2015
- Casting call: Protect the FCC’s regulation of the prison and jail telephone industry
Are you are a writer, actor or video person who cares about justice? We need to talk.
by Peter Wagner, October 16, 2015
- FCC commissioners reveal details of their proposal to protect all families of incarcerated people
Their proposal would give families the telephone justice they have been asking for.
by Peter Wagner, October 1, 2015
- In-person family visits will return to Austin, Texas
Travis County, Texas will bring back in-person visits that were replaced with video visits in 2013
by Bernadette Rabuy, September 30, 2015
- What would prison telephone justice look like?
What would effective state executive or legislative action for prison and jail telephone justice look like?
by Peter Wagner, September 29, 2015
- Help us stay one step ahead of the exploitative prison phone industry
Prison phone companies are sneaky but we've learned how to uncover their tricks. Will you help us stay one step ahead?
by Peter Wagner, September 11, 2015
- RT America explains continuing high costs of calls
Succinct 4-minute news piece by RT America explores the high cost of calls that remains in place while the Federal Communications Commission delays closing its regulatory....
by Aleks Kajstura, August 14, 2015
- Are campaign contributions the new “commission”? Analysis of Securus’s contributions in Sacramento
Why is Securus one of the largest campaign contributors to the Sacramento County Sheriff?
by Peter Wagner, August 12, 2015
- Alabama’s new phone rates go into effect
Starting tomorrow Alabama begins implementing their prison and jail phone regulations which cap rates and fees for in-state calls. The Alabama Public Service Commission....
by Aleks Kajstura, June 30, 2015
- Uncovering Securus’ profits
Securus exemplifies the industry's obscene penchant for squeezing profits by fleecing their customers and shorting their business partners.
by Peter Wagner, June 19, 2015
- The prison phone industry’s new business model: Fee Harvesting
Some of these companies call themselves phone companies, but the phone service is little more than a gimmick to charge expensive fees.
by Peter Wagner, June 18, 2015
- Arkansas DOC to implement Securus video visits
Arkansas DOC will be first state prison system with Securus video visits
by Bernadette Rabuy, April 15, 2015
- The demographics of computer ownership and high-speed internet access
The poor, the elderly, and African-Americans and Latinos are less likely to have computers or high-speed internet at home. Replacing regular jail visits with computer video chats is a bad idea.
by Peter Wagner, March 17, 2015
- New videos: Video visitation is not “just like Skype”
4 short comedy videos reject that video visits are "just like Skype"
by Bernadette Rabuy, February 18, 2015
- Exploiting Inmates
"Exploiting Inmates" by Sukey Lewis in today's East Bay Express presents a great comprehensive overview of the current problems with the prison and jail phone industry
by Aleks Kajstura, February 4, 2015
- No surprise: Securus refund disaster
I waste 25 minutes for a visit that never happens, and Securus gets to keep my money anyway.
by Bernadette Rabuy, February 3, 2015
- Multnomah County Sheriff reverses ban on in-person visits in Portland jails!
Portland jails will now let families visit via video or in-person
by Bernadette Rabuy, January 29, 2015
- Department of Justice study: Video visitation is not an invitation to ban in-person visitation
DOJ study on video visitation: In-person visits are a best practice that should be protected
by Bernadette Rabuy, January 28, 2015
- Prison and Jail Video Visitation: A forward-looking idea implemented badly
New Prison Policy Initiative report finds video visitation actually punishes families
by Bernadette Rabuy, January 14, 2015
- Six briefings on prison telephone justice
On Monday evening, we submitted 6 major briefings on the need to regulate the prison and jail telephone industry to the Federal Communications Commission.
by Peter Wagner, January 14, 2015
- Eric Lotke talks about his new novel and the need for prison phone justice
In this new video, our Board President, Eric Lotke talks about his new novel, Making Manna and the connection to the struggle for prison phone justice and the Prison....
by Peter Wagner, December 29, 2014
- Support prison phone justice on this Giving Tuesday!
Generous friends have agreed to match any donations to PPI through 2014, making your gift go twice as far.
by Leah Sakala, December 2, 2014
- New video explains jail telephone industry’s hidden fees
One company produces a video explaining to Sheriffs how the status quo is bad for them.
by Peter Wagner, November 25, 2014
- New opportunity to weigh in on FCC prison phone regulation
Join us in telling the FCC to ensure that ALL families can afford to stay in touch with incarcerated loved ones
by Leah Sakala, November 21, 2014
- Dallas County approves video visitation contract
Today, in a partial reversal, the Dallas County Commissioners Court approved a new contract with jail telephone giant Securus.
by Peter Wagner, November 11, 2014
- Sheriff Joe Arpaio phases out in-person visits in Maricopa
Infamous Sheriff Joe Arpaio replaces in-person visits with video visitation
by Bernadette Rabuy, November 10, 2014
- New FCC prison phone regulation proposal play-by-play
Will the FCC ban commissions, cap all calling rates, and eliminate fees?
by Leah Sakala, October 27, 2014
- FCC considers next steps to protect families from predatory prison and jail telephone industry.
We need your help now to counter the powerful prison phone lobby.
by Peter Wagner, October 17, 2014
- Prison bankers cash in on captive customers
Center for Public Integrity releases first part of a series on web of prison bankers, private vendors, and corrections agencies profiting off families of the incarcerated.
by Bernadette Rabuy, September 30, 2014
- Next Steps on prison and jail phone reform: Joint statement by Chairman Wheeler and Commissioner Clyburn
"The wheels of justice turn slowly, but today we prepare to take the next critical step toward reducing the high price paid by inmates and their families to communicate"
by Aleks Kajstura, September 26, 2014
- FCC Commissioners are proposing to protect families from in-state prison phone gouging
Two commissioners circulate a proposal that would extend last year's historic ruling protecting some families from the predatory prison and jail telephone industry.
by Peter Wagner, September 25, 2014
- Tired of corporate stalling, petitioners submit prison phone companies’ own data to FCC
Martha Wright and her fellow petitioners mine prison phone companies' state-mandated disclosures to submit rate data to the FCC when the companies refuse answer the basic questions themselves.
by Aleks Kajstura, September 23, 2014
- Dallas County rejects Securus video visitation contract!
Dallas County tells Securus: No we won't end visiting hours at jail and require expensive video visitation instead.
by Peter Wagner, September 9, 2014
- Dallas Texas to consider banning free in-person visits, requiring expensive video visits instead
Later this morning, Dallas County Texas will vote on a new telephone contract with Securus that will also ban free in-person visits and require families to pay for video....
by Peter Wagner, September 9, 2014
- CenturyLink and Pay-Tel offer a peek down the rabbit hole of the prison phone industry
Where 96% isn't 96% and clients aren't clients.
by Leah Sakala, September 2, 2014
- PPI’s Aleks Kajstura presents at FCC workshop on further regulation of the prison phone industry
Aleks Kajstura gave an invited presentation of our research on two different workshop panels, highlighting the importance of fees and comprehensive reform.
by Leah Sakala, August 20, 2014
- John Oliver takes on the U.S. prison system
Awesome piece with one small mistake on the difference between prisons and jails.
by Peter Wagner, August 4, 2014
- FCC hears how high cost of calls can end parental rights
David Carliner Award Finalist Barbara Graves-Poller tells the FCC that New York prison phonecall price gouging routinely causes people to lose their parental rights.
by Peter Wagner, July 24, 2014
- Alabama to rein in third-party payment profit sharing in prison telephone industry
Alabama’s new rules will force prison phone industry to end kickbacks from Western Union/MoneyGram.
by Peter Wagner, July 21, 2014
- Huffington Post: The Father’s Day Profiteers That Put Hallmark to Shame
The Huffington Post just published my new article, The Father's Day Profiteers That Put Hallmark to Shame. Here's how it starts: This Sunday, more than a million families....
by Leah Sakala, June 13, 2014
- The Mothers Day Phone Rip-Off
This Mother's day, hundreds of thousands of kids won't be able to call their mothers, and if Mom calls them, those kids are going to have a hard time paying for the call if she calls them.
by Peter Wagner, May 9, 2014
- PPI weighs in on New York Times Room for Debate on video visitation
"[I]f left unregulated, the video communication market could follow the trajectory of the infamously broken prison telephone industry."
by Leah Sakala, February 28, 2014
- HuffPo: FCC Bests Prison Telephone Industry Just in Time for Valentine’s Day
Peter and Leah wrote a new Huffington Post piece about the start of the FCC's inter-state prison phone rate regulation on Tuesday.
by Leah Sakala, February 13, 2014
- Today the FCC dragged the prison telephone industry kicking and screaming into the 21st century
The two largest prison phone companies, mislead correctional facilities and federal regulators by acting like communications technology is stuck in the 1950s.
by Peter Wagner, February 11, 2014
- PPI sparks New York Times column “Phoning From Prison, at Prices Through the Roof”
We asked The New York Times consumer protection columnist the Haggler to investigate the broken prison phone industry. He did!
by Leah Sakala, February 3, 2014
- FCC should remain persistent on prison phone progress
We submitted additional comments to the FCC confirming more kickbacks, and urging the FCC to keep protections in place for people in jail.
by Aleks Kajstura, January 15, 2014
- Portion of FCC prison phone regulations put on hold; rate caps to go into effect 2/11
Court orders stay on some of the FCC's new prison phone regulations, but caps on call rates still go into effect on February 11th.
by Aleks Kajstura, January 14, 2014
- New York Times editorial cites PPI research on correctional video communication industry
"…the Prison Policy Initiative, a Massachusetts research group, urged similar rules for video visitation, email, voice mail and other systems."
by Leah Sakala, January 7, 2014
- FCC should close video loophole in prison phone regulation
Increasing the number of ways that families can stay in touch is a good thing. But allowing companies to exploit families and undercut the FCC's efforts to bring fairness to this industry is not.
by Leah Sakala, December 23, 2013
- Tell the FCC that all families need to stay in touch
We're partnering with SumOfUs to collect petitions supporting the FCC's next steps in regulating the prison phone industry.
by Aleks Kajstura, December 4, 2013
- FCC denies phone companies’ pleas to delay fair rates
The FCC denies prison phone companies’ petitions to delay implementing fair rates, reiterating the need for regulation.
by Aleks Kajstura, November 26, 2013
- Alabama should implement proposed prison phone reform
PPI submits letter to Alabama Public Service Commission supporting proposed regulations to reign in exorbitant costs jails and prison phone calls.
by Aleks Kajstura, November 14, 2013
- FCC prison phone regulation ruling published in Federal Register, to take effect Feb 11.
Companies and correctional facilities can no longer collude to profit off of keeping families apart.
by Peter Wagner, November 13, 2013
- Prison phone company to expand most costly service?
Prison phone company that recently raised their exorbitant fees even higher, recently took steps to bolster their still unregulated single call program.
by Aleks Kajstura, November 8, 2013
- Alabama seeks to curb high cost of prison and jail phone calls
Alabama Public Service Commission caps phone rates and limits fees charged for phone calls from correctional facilities.
by Aleks Kajstura, October 9, 2013
- A prison phone industry giant said what??
The Huffington Post just published the first article we’ve seen on the prison phone regulation that includes a public interview with the CEO of Securus.
by Leah Sakala, September 10, 2013
- Prison phone giant Securus cashes in, raises fees
While the FCC drags its feet on regulating the prison phone industry, the industry is wasting no time raking in the profits.
by Peter Wagner, September 5, 2013
- Prison Legal News covers historic FCC workshop on the prison phone industry
The article includes a nice summary of Peter's invited presentation on a panel about the true costs of providing prison phone service.
by Leah Sakala, August 29, 2013
- When is a customer not a customer? (In prison.)
A New York Times Magazine article exposes how the broken prison commissary industry leaves the people footing the bill out of the equation.
by Leah Sakala, August 20, 2013
- FCC takes historic stand to control the predatory prison and jail phone industry
the FCC is finally stepping up to the plate to protect families from having to choose between staying in touch and paying the bills.
by Leah Sakala, August 9, 2013
- The good old days of the exploitative prison phone industry?
2002 footage shows how much the industry has changed in 10 years.
by Leah Sakala, August 9, 2013
- Hiding commission payments and bypassing regulation
Letter to FCC: crafting effective regulation for prison phone market requires taking a comprehensive view of the commission system, ending high rates.
by Aleks Kajstura, August 3, 2013
- 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
- PPI will expose hefty fees and commissions at FCC workshop on prison phone service
The workshop is from 9am-5pm EST Wednesday July 10th, and the FCC needs to hear from you. Find out how to participate.
by Leah Sakala, July 9, 2013
- New video: The high cost of calls home from the Hampden County Jail
Our new video shines some light on the dark underbelly of the telecommunications industry.
by Leah Sakala, July 9, 2013
- FCC has questions on prison phone service fees, PPI has answers
The FCC wants to know about the many fees prison phone companies charge. While the companies aren't talking, we've got answers.
by Leah Sakala, July 8, 2013
- PPI’s “Unlocking Prison Phone Data” Hackathon project on NCTV
Peter Wagner and Jake Mitchell talk about their software to make prison phone justice documents on the FCC website accessible to the larger movement.
by Leah Sakala, June 28, 2013
- The Phone Corporations That Ruined Fathers Day
On Sunday, some families had to choose between wishing dad a Happy Father’s Day on the telephone and putting food on the table.
by Peter Wagner, June 18, 2013
- Securus agrees that it’s ripping customers off via outrageous prison phone fees
But will they take their own advice and stop charging customers to get their own money back?
by Leah Sakala, June 11, 2013
- Unlocking the FCC data at Hack for Western Mass
A team of civic-minded hackers in Western Massachusetts have built a tool to make it easier to access documents about the FCC proceeding on regulating the prison telephone industry.
by Peter Wagner, June 3, 2013
- Thoughts on processing fees in the jail telephone industry
Some additional observations about prison phone fees, based on discussions we had with the phone companies after the report’s release.
by Peter Wagner, May 29, 2013
- Our report leads two phone companies to clarify & improve policies
As a result of the report, at least two companies, Turnkey and NCIC, made several clarifications and improvements to their fee policies.
by Peter Wagner, May 28, 2013
- Please Deposit All of Your Money: Kickbacks, Rates, and Hidden Fees in the Jail Phone Industry
The newest Prison Policy Initiative report exposes the prison phone industry's hidden fees, which saddle the families of incarcerated people with staggeringly high phone bills.
by Leah Sakala, May 8, 2013
- Prisons rob incarcerated people by gouging phone call prices
Peter Wagner talks about the FCC taking action to rein in prison phone rates on RT America, January 4, 2013.
by Leah Sakala, January 4, 2013
- RT News covers predatory prison phone industry
On November 20, 2012 Prison Policy Initiative Research Associate Drew Kukorowski appeared on RT News to talk about the outrageous charges of the prison and jail phone industry.
by Leah Sakala, November 21, 2012
- Movement victory: FCC proposes to regulate prison phone rates
At a Nov. 15th phone justice rally in Washington D.C., we, along with our partners at SumOfUs, delivered signatures from 36,690 people across the country calling on the FCC to rein in predatory prison phone rates. And it looks like the FCC will act soon -- Commissioner Mignon Clyburn announced that the FCC Chairman has circulated a prison phone regulatory proposal that the commission will now vote on.
by Leah Sakala, November 15, 2012
- New York Times editorial cites our prison phone industry report
The New York Times cited "The Price to Call Home: State-Sanctioned Monopolization in the Prison Phone Industry" in an editorial calling on the Federal Communications Commission to cap prison calling rates.
by Leah Sakala, September 24, 2012
- New PPI report “The Price To Call Home: State-Sanctioned Monopolization In The Prison Phone Industry”
A new Prison Policy Initiative report reveals that the monopolistic prison phone industry’s high calling rates are jeopardizing public safety and taxing poor communities. The report calls on the FCC to set price caps that would allow incarcerated people to increase their chances of success upon release by staying connected to their families.
by Leah Sakala, September 11, 2012
Other news coverage we think you should read
- Criminal Charges, by Colin Lecher, The Verge, May 12, 2016
- How Prison Phone Calls Became A Tax On The Poor, by Eric Markowitz, International Business Times, March 30, 2016
- Not So Securus: Part 2, by Jordan Smith and Micah Lee, The Intercept, February 12, 2016
- Someone Wrote a Sketchy Guide for Evading New Rules on Prison Phone Costs, by Dana Liebelson and Ben Walsh, The Huffington Post, February 10, 2016
- Ex Parte Submission: Further Developments in ICS Industry, by Lee G. Pedro, February 3, 2016
- State Officials Go To Court To Challenge FCC Cap On Inmate Phone Call Fees, by Clifton Adcock and Oklahoma Watch, KGOU, January 31, 2016
- County sued over jail calls, accused of taking ‘kickbacks’, by Brett Kelman, The Desert Sun, January 28, 2016
- Not So Securus: Massive Hack of 70 Million Prisoner Phone Calls Indicates Violations of Attorney-Client Privilege, by Jordan Smith and Micah Lee, The Intercept, November 11, 2015
- Prison phone rates generate billions for companies, cause stress for black families, by Curtis Bunn, Chicago Defender, October 21, 2015
- The Unnecessarily High Cost of Inmate Calling Charges Is an Injustice, by Senator Cory Booker and Federal Communications Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, Huffington Post, October 13, 2015
- Campbell calls for refund in illegal jail phone fees, Staff Reports, The Shreveport Times, July 13, 2015
- Bergen County to Enter New Jail Phone Contract with Exorbitant Rates, New Jersey Phone Justice, June 26, 2015
- Phone calls now cheaper at WV prisons, but not jails, by Erin Beck, The Charleston Gazette, June 21, 2015
- New Jersey, Ohio DOCs Significantly Reduce Phone Rates, Prison Legal News, May 6, 2015
- New Contract for NJ, phone rates under 5 cents per minute coming soon!, New Jersey Phone Justice, April 8, 2015
- Ohio approves 75% cost drop for prison phone calls, by Jona Ison, Telegraph-Forum, March 31, 2015
- Charge Colorado inmates fairly for phone calls, by The Denver Post Editorial Board, The Denver Post, January 28, 2015
- Dallas County Jail Telephones Cost Extra If You Pay with a Credit Card. Is That Legal?, by Amy Silverstein, Dallas Observer, December 5, 2014
- Making Prison Phone Calls Cheaper: Why It Matters, by Rebecca J. Rosen, The Atlantic, August 18, 2013
- Private Equity Take From Prison Phone Market Cut by FCC, by Todd Shields, Bloomberg Businessweek, August 9, 2013
- FCC to consider limiting cost of prison phone calls, by Christina Mai-Duc, Los Angeles Times, August 8, 2013
- Congressional Black Caucus pushes for regulation of prison phone services, by Suzanne Gamboa, Star Tribune, April 24, 2013
- Inmate Phone Service Draws FCC Scrutiny, by Joe Palazzolo, Wall Street Journal, January 18, 2013
- FCC to Propose Cuts in Prisoners’ Rates for Phone Calls, by Todd Shields, Bloomberg Businessweek, December 28, 2012
- FCC wants to lower sky-high prison phone call rates, by David Goldman, CNN, December 28, 2012
- Gouging for prison phone calls means we all pay, Columbus Dispatch, December 12, 2012
- After almost a decade, FCC has yet to rule on high cost of prison phone calls, by Justin Moyer, Washington Post, December 2, 2012
Other resources helpful to the movement
- The Prison Phone Justice Campaign contains a wealth of information, including a Brief Bank for litigation-related documents and a collection of publications related to prison phone reform.
- The Bankrupt-Your-Family Calling Plan New York Times editorial (December 22, 2006) is an excellent summary of what’s wrong with the prison phone industry.
- An excellent infographic that succinctly explains the core problems in the prison telephone industry, developed
by Take Part and the Center for Media Justice.
- Thousand Kites phone justice contains an updated list of recent op-eds and press coverage of prison phone justice, and links to the Center for Media Justice’s Democracy Toolkit for prison phone reform.
- Prison Legal News is the leading news source for the rights of incarcerated persons. Prison Legal News has been documenting the injustices in the prison phone industry for years, and remains the leading forum for new developments in the fight for prison phone reform.
- Prison Legal News’s phone charges by state data tables.
- The Federal Communications Commission: Track developments and new public comments on the Wright Petition. Select the Electronic Comment Filing System link from the menu on the right-hand side of the homepage, and then search for proceeding number 96-128. Read letters written by incarcerated people, their families, and organizations detailing the harm caused by high prison phone rates.