Court Halts Cap on Prison Phone Calls
Date:  03-09-2016

Families of people in prison will continue to feel the financial strain of high phone rates
From Ars Technia via Prison Legal News Newsletter, March 8, 2016

In blow to inmates' families, court halts new prison phone rate caps

Prison phone companies yesterday (March 7, 206) were granted a judicial stay that halts implementation of new, lower rate caps on inmate calls. The court did not halt new limits on certain ancillary fees related to inmate calls, though, so the overall price of prison calling should go down.

Global Tel*Link (GTL) and Securus Technologies had asked the US Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia to stay new price regulations until a lawsuit against the Federal Communications Commission is decided, arguing that they have a high likelihood of prevailing in the case. The companies argue that the FCC overstepped its authority and that the new limits fall short of what prison phone companies are contractually obligated to pay in "site commissions" to correctional facilities. Despite protest from the FCC, the court today partially granted the stay request.

"While the DC Circuit stayed implementation of new, lower rate caps, and a related rule limiting fees for certain single call services, the Court otherwise declined to delay critical reforms including implementation of caps and restrictions on ancillary fees," the FCC said in a response to the ruling. New ancillary fee limits will take effect on March 17 in prisons and on June 20 in jails.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, both Democrats, said they regret the delay of the new, lower rate caps but that they believe the court will ultimately uphold them. In the meantime, the new limits on ancillary charges will make a difference, they said. "These fees can increase the cost to consumers of a call by nearly 40 percent, compounding the burden of rates that are too high," Wheeler and Clyburn said in a written statement.

Read more here.