Inmates serving a jail sentence make a phone call at Maricopa County's Tent City jail in Phoenix

Several months ago, the FCC decided to finally step in and limit just how much jails can charge inmates for phone calls. Now, one may be thinking…”Why is the government involved in this type of thing?”

Good question. The FCC got involved after mounting complaints from not just inmates but the inmates families. Jails were charging inmates up to $14 per minute during a phone call. Families were suddenly left to pay thousands of dollars to barely speak with family/friends in jail. As the FCC found out, one grandmother was forced to decide whether to pay her huge phone bill or pay for her necessary medication.

But why was the price so high? Because jails wanted additional revenue and knew that they could jack up prices on people that are desperate to talk to their family. Now, instead of allowing families/friends to pay absurd amounts of money to talk to their loved ones, the FCC has implemented new rules for jails:

The FCC’s decision eliminates or limits fees commonly tacked on by providers. It also caps the maximum cost of a 15-minute in-state or local call at $1.65 and lowers the per-minute rate.– NBC News

The FCC also capped what it called the “ancillary charges” tacked on to these bills to:

  • $3 for automated payment through phone or website
  • $6 to pay a bill via a live agent
  • $2 for a paper bill

To nobody’s surprise, telephone companies were outraged that the FCC stopped them from gouging families and friends of inmates. Nevermind that phone service costs a fraction of what it used to cost thanks to advances in technology.


Now, jails are speaking out about their dislike of these changes. In fact, jails are warning us that because they can’t profit off these charges anymore, they just may cut off phone service altogether. Eliminating phone service would be terrible.

But I am still confused as to why jails or telephone companies think that ripping off inmates and their families is acceptable on any level. If the jails need more money, how about they try finding it through legitimate means such as asking their local/state government?

Instead, we are left with CenturyLink crying about how it is now “uneconomical” to service jails….choosing to ignore the fact that city/state governments give CenturyLink billions of taxpayer dollars every year for service that generally is looked upon as dismal.