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For decades, many prison inmates in both state and federal facilities have paid significantly higher rates to make interstate phone calls than people outside of correctional facilities. According to the FCC, some prison inmates have had to pay as much as $17 for a 15 minute phone call.

The new rules come a decade after Martha Wright, a, Washington, D.C., grandmother petitioned the FCC for relief from inmate calling rates. Since then, the FCC says that tens of thousands of people have urged the FCC to make it easier – and in some cases even possible – for them to stay in touch with loved ones in jail.

 

On Tuesday, February 11, 2014, the new rules which apply to interstate calls made from federal, state, and local correctional facilities, went into effect.

“This means that many families will no longer have to choose between talking to their loved ones in prison and paying their utility bills. It means that society will benefit from the decreased rates of recidivism that family contact brings,” FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, and Commissioner Clyburn said in a statement. “These families can now afford to keep in touch because the era of unreasonable and unjust phone rates has ended.”

In their ruling, the FCC also ruled that prisoners can use cheaper VoIP alternatives to place those calls home. In its ruling the FCC stated…

“The call routing services are not initiated by the calling party, as in the case of operator services, but rather are subscribed to by the party being called. The calling party does not have to engage any automatic or live assistance in order to complete the call, indeed, for the calling party; the routed call is completed in a seamless manner.”