August 20, 2018

FCC Commissioners Agree with Duckworth: Unjust Prison Call Rates Must be Addressed


[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) solidified consensus and received a commitment from Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Commissioners Michael O’Rielly, Jessica Rosenworcel, Brendan Carr and Chairman Ajit Pai to help address unjust and unreasonable inmate call rates at last week’s U.S. Senate Commerce, Science & Transportation Committee oversight hearing. In March, Duckworth introduced bipartisan legislation with U.S. Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Rob Portman (R-OH) and Brian Schatz (D-HI) to address predatory inmate calling rates at correctional and detention facilities across the country and affirm the FCC’s authority to address this market failure.

“Helping incarcerated individuals stay in touch with their loved ones improves the odds they will become productive members of society upon their release and avoid returning to prison,” Duckworth said. “I’m pleased that Chairman Pai, Commissioners O’Rielly, Carr and Rosenworcel and Nominee Starks have expressed their opposition to these unjust and unreasonable intrastate inmate call rates, and I look forward to working with them to address this important issue.”

A recent federal court decision ruled that the Communications Act authorizes the FCC to regulate interstate prison calls, but does not clearly authorize the FCC to address intrastate inmate telecommunications services. Without this authorization, inmates and their families are forced to rely on a system that often charges unreasonable and unaffordable rates. Last July, Chairman Pai affirmed his commitment to work with Senator Duckworth to address these issues during his nomination hearing and welcomed Congress providing the FCC with the authority to establish rules for intrastate prison calls.

Duckworth has long been outspoken about the need to reform our criminal justice system. Last year, Duckworth reintroduced the Video Visitation and Inmate Calling in Prisons Act to help families keep in touch with incarcerated family members through video and telecommunication services, something studies have shown can help reduce recidivism rates and thereby save taxpayer dollars.

More information on Duckworth’s Inmate Calling Technical Corrections Act is available here.