December 8, 2016–Sen. Corey Booker (D., N.J.) and Rep. Bobby Rush (D., Ill.) introduced a concurrent resolution today supporting the FCC’s efforts to rein in the rates for inmate calling services (ICS).“These excessive fees are not only baseless attempts to profit off of vulnerable families, they undermine the financial security of those trying to stay in touch with a partner, parent, or child behind bars. In addition, excessive fees on inmate calls can pose a substantial barrier to successful reentry once individuals have paid their debt to society. That debt should not include paying excessive fees per minute to speak with your child,” Sen. Booker said.
Rep. Rush described the barriers created by high ICS rates as “the ‘family divide,’ a term analogous to the ‘digital divide’ that exists with regard to unequal access to communication services between incarcerated members of our society and their loved ones.”
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit recently stayed the FCC’s August ICS order (TRDaily, Nov. 3), in which the Commission had set new rate caps for interstate and intrastate ICS calls that are higher than those the Commission adopted in a 2015 order but generally lower than interim rate caps adopted in a 2013 order for interstate ICS calls (TRDaily, Aug. 4). The D.C. Circuit previously stayed the rates in the 2015 order, and it has ordered the challenges of the August order held in abeyance pending its disposition of the challenges of the 2015 order.
The court’s actions left in place the 2013 interim rate caps for interstate ICS calls. The rate caps set by the 2015 order were stayed by the D.C. Circuit, pending resolution of the legal challenges. Intrastate ICS calls were not subject to caps under the 2013 order, so the court’s stay of the August order leaves those rates unregulated by the FCC. —Lynn Stanton, firstname.lastname@example.org