January 13, 2015
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
As part of a national effort to make phone calls from prisons and jails more affordable for those incarcerated and their families, the Illinois Campaign for Prison Phone Justice has submitted a report to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which is currently considering regulating the cost of these calls. A copy of the 15-page document can be viewed at our website here. We call on the FCC to stop large phone companies from preying on a vulnerable population, many of them from African American, Latino, and white working class communities.
Last year, the FCC capped the costs of interstate phone calls, and they are currently considering regulating intrastate rates, a decision that would positively impact thousands of families in Illinois.
Phone calls provide essential communication for those behind bars, keeping families intact and reducing recidivism. Greg Gaither, who lives in Chicago and worked inside juvenile detention facilities for years, said that the phone call is “the most important piece of communication going on in the system.”
Illinois stands as a leader in the nation for its expensive prison phone rates. In 2012, the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) took in an astronomical $12 million in “site commissions,” or “kickbacks,” among the highest of any state in the country. The average call costs about four dollars, with three of those four dollars going back to the IDOC. As we found, this money is entirely unaccounted for. Chicago resident Miguel Saucedo estimated his family will pay $20,000 to stay in touch with his brother over the two decades he is locked up.
The high costs are largely due to a virtual monopoly by Securus Technologies, one of the largest prison phone companies in the world. Securus operates phone services in nearly 80 percent of Illinois county jails and all prisons. In some county jails users pay up to $8.60 for a 15-minute call.
We ask the FCC to step in to protect families from such predatory companies. Among our recommendations are: 1) a rate cap on intrastate calls of 5 cents per minute, 2) end site commissions, 3) elimination of all surcharges and ancillary fees. To view the more than 600 submissions to the FCC on this issue, including those from other phone justice campaigns, as well as several from Securus, visit the FCC website here.
The Illinois Campaign for Prison Phone Justice is a project of the Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center (202 S. Broadway, Urbana, Illinois).