State lowers prison phone rates, Star Ledger coverage

Yesterday’s changes in the phone rates for New Jersey prisons and jails will have an immediate impact, especially on immigrant detainees held in New Jersey who are in the custody of New York Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The rates are still nowhere near comparable to New York rates of less than 5 cents per minute, but the state adopted a flat rate of 19 cents, just below the FCC maximum rate and eliminated commissions for prisons. The county jails can still take commissions on intrastate calls, and their exorbitant in-state rates remain in place.

See the documents confirming the change in rates for state prisons here and county jails here.

State officials lower phone rates for NJ inmates

By Naomi Nix/The Star-Ledger

on February 12, 2014 at 7:00 AM, updated February 12, 2014 at 7:06 AM

The cost of making a phone call to mom or dad from behind bars just got a whole lot cheaper.

State officials lowered the price of making local and long-distance phone calls from state prisons from 33 cents a minute to 19 cents a minute to comply with new Federal Communications Commission regulations.

The new rate, which went into effect Tuesday, follows a decade-long campaign by activists around the United States who urged the FCC to regulate phone service companies they say were charging exorbitant rates to inmates and their loved ones.

“Although the wheels of justice often turn slowly, relief for families of inmates has finally arrived,” the FCC commissioners said in a statement. “This means that many families will no longer have to choose between talking to their loved ones in prison and paying their utility bills.”

New Jersey inmates in county jails that have contracts with Global Tel Link, the state’s main correctional facility phone service provider, will also see lower rates for out-of-state calls.

It will now cost 21 cents a minute to make prepaid or debit calls and 25 cents a minute for collect calls to someone outside of New Jersey, according to the state treasury department. Counties will also no longer be allowed to take commissions for out-of-state calls, the department said.

Global Tel Link’s contract with the state expires later this year, which means the rates could change again. A bidding process for a new contract began in November.

The FCC started to explore the possibility of regulating the industry in 2003, after a woman complained to the commission that it was too expensive to call her grandson in jail.

Last August, the FCC declared that the “just” rate for out-of-state calls was 12 cents per minute for debit and prepaid calls and 14 cents per minute for collect calls. The commission also capped out-of-state rates at 21 cents and 25 cents per minute for debit and collect calls, respectively.

But late last year, the phone companies filed a complaint in federal court in the District of Columbia seeking a review of the FCC’s order.

The new FCC regulations still allow counties to charge higher rates for in-state calls and take commissions. And New Jersey inmates in different counties who are served by the same phone company are still charged widely different rates.

http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2014/02/fcc_commission_order_to_lower_phone_rates_for_nj_inmates.html

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