New Congressional Quest: End Prison Phone Call Price Gouging

The Congressional Black Caucus Working Group on Prison Telecomm Reform is protesting high call costs for phone-homers behind bars.

The CBC group will hold a press conference with former inmates and family members "to expose the often exorbitant rates that prisoners and their families are being charged for telephone calls and to announce the CBC response to the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) to resolve the issue after more than a decade of delay," according to D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton's (D) office.

Prison calling rates can be as much as $4 per-call plus a 55-cents per-minute charge

CBC Chairwoman Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio) will be joined by the original plaintiff in the class-action lawsuit, Martha Wright, a District resident who will speak along with her grandson, Ulandis Forte, a former inmate. Forte finished an 18-year sentence for murder in June.

Other members of the task force in addition to Norton are Bobby Rush (D-Ill.), Bobby Scott (D-Va.), G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.), Donald Payne Jr. (D-N.J.), John Lewis (D-Ga.) and Hank Johnson (D-Ga.).

“D.C. residents are incarcerated in the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), where the rates are high but not nearly as high as in many state prisons,” said Norton. “Extensive evidence has long established the direct correlation between communication with relatives and others in an inmate’s support system and success in reintegration into civil society. Our working group’s investigation of this issue, reflected in our comments released today, shows that only a national remedy from the FCC can mitigate the harm to society, inmates and their families alike.”

D.C. Code felons are transported and incarcerated throughout the country, and therefore forced to pay interstate phone call rates that are often significantly higher than the already high intrastate rates that residents of the 50 states generally pay, she said.