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Advocates: Pack the Room to End Prison Phone Price Gouging

PHOTO: Calls to and from prison inmates can cost them and their families up to 24 times a normal call. The FCC holds a workshop today on whether it should act to discourage prison phone company gouging.
PHOTO: Calls to and from prison inmates can cost them and their families up to 24 times a normal call. The FCC holds a workshop today on whether it should act to discourage prison phone company gouging.
July 10, 2013

ARLINGTON, Va. - The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is finally responding to a 10-year-plus effort asking the agency to examine charges of price gouging in the nation's prisons. Today the FCC holds a public workshop to discuss whether or not they should lower the charges for prison phone calls - which can cost up to 24 times more than a normal call. Prison reform and media reform advocates have invited people who live in and near Washington, D.C., to fill the room and tell the prison phone industry what they think.

Steven Renderos, Center for Media Justice, said the companies have not been forthcoming with FCC requests for data.

"This is really an opportunity for them to be on the spot and to really back up their claims that they need to be charging these exorbitant rates, these ridiculous fees to the families of prisoners," Renderos said.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons has acknowledged that phone calls play a critical role in reducing recidivism by keeping inmates in frequent contact with their families.

Prison phone companies defend their rates, but Renderos said they have not responded to government requests to provide the justifying data.

"They didn't do that," he said. "This workshop is really an opportunity to bring those prison telephone companies to the table and ask them some of those very difficult questions."

Renderos said he hopes to pack the room with people who care about this issue.

"If you happen to live in the Washington, D.C./Maryland/Virginia area," he said, "you can come on down to the Federal Communications Commission. Folks outside the Washington, D.C., area can stream it live online by visiting http://www.fcc.gov/."

Anyone can submit questions there, too, and be a virtual participant. Advocates are also encouraging people to share their stories on Facebook and Twitter by using #phonejustice and #FCC.

The workshop is scheduled from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the FCC Commission Meeting Room, 445 12th Street, S.W., Washington, DC.

Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - VA