Regulating the prison phone industry

Our big-picture report
Explainers about phone justice
Contracts database
Our advocacy
Press coverage

Some children have to pay almost $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 twenty 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 lowering rates and halting industry consolidation, we’re pushing for states to take action, and we’re keeping this industry and the perverse incentives it offers the sheriffs in the news. This page provides an overview of our research and advocacy:

color coded map of the United States showing the biggest priorities for prison and jail phone justice in 40 of the states as of 2019For more on each state, see our briefing The biggest priorities for prison and jail phone justice in 40 states. For the big national picture, see our report, State of Phone Justice.

Our big-picture report

  • report thumbnail for State of Phone Justice report

    State of Phone Justice:
    Local jails, state prisons and private phone providers

    The movement for phone justice has won huge victories in state-run prisons, but people in local jails still frequently have to pay $1 per minute or more for a phone call. Our report explains why sheriffs sign lucrative phone contracts, allows readers to compare the cost of phone calls in thousands of locally-run jails and state-run prisons, and goes into unprecedented depth on the state of the prison and jail phone market.

Our recent FCC briefings:

See our older reports and FCC briefings

Older reports and FCC briefings

FCC briefings:






Correctional phone industry contracts

We've made our collection of correctional phone industry contract documents public. Search them to see what companies are profting in your area.

Explainers about phone justice

Some of the highlights from the phones section of our blog:

Our advocacy

Beyond our national work seeking stronger federal regulations, raising the issue of prison phone exploitation in the press, and sparking state-level advocacy, we're also deeply involved in two states' regulatory proceedings:

Our work in California

We're calling for the California Public Utilities Commission to reduce the cost of calling home from California prisons and jails by imposing rate and fee caps. For more information, see:

Our work in Nevada

We are participating in Nevada's legislatively-mandated regulatory proceeding on the cost of in-state calling from prisons and jails. Our filings are available below:

Our work in Colorado

In 2021, the Colorado legislature re-regulated telecommunications services delivered to incarcerated people. In June 2022, we filed a demographic analysis of incarcerated Coloradans and urged the Colorado Public Utilities Commission to address prison and jail telecommunications rates as part of the Commission's work on promoting equity

Our work in Iowa

We pushed the Iowa Utilities Board to regulate several jail phone providers — and won. Our campaign in Iowa is part of our national strategy to encourage state regulators to address unreasonable rates and fees charged by the jail phone industry. For more information, see:

Our work in New York

We found data showing that upstate New York county jails take huge commissions -- often 80% or more -- on revenue from phone calls. Our data sparked a bill in the New York State Legislature (likely to be reintroduced in 2022).

  • Read our report from March 2021 on jail phone rates and kickbacks in New York, including a table of data for 57 counties.

Our COVID-19 work

We're providing critical data to help local advocates push for free communication in jails during the pandemic (and beyond). See:

Our work in the news

Other news coverage we think you should read

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