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PLN managing editor quoted re FCC's rate caps on prison phone calls

Tennessean, Jan. 1, 2014.
PLN managing editor quoted re FCC's rate caps on prison phone calls - Tennessean 2014

Cost of TN inmates' interstate phone calls will drop

Feb. 10, 2014 4:02 AM

Written by
Walter F. Roche Jr.

Thanks to advocacy groups and a recent federal court ruling, the cost of interstate phone calls by inmates in Davidson County and throughout the state prison system will drop by more than 70 percent as of Friday.

The rate drop is a result of new rules issued by the Federal Communications Commission. Though some of the FCC changes have been put on hold by a federal judge, the cut in interstate rates will be allowed to take effect.

Alex Friedmann of Tennessee-based Prison Legal News said the cost of a 15-minute collect call for prisoners in Tennessee Department of Correction facilities will drop from $12.80 to $3.75. A call made on a debit or prepaid card will go from $11.52 to $3.15, a 72.6 percent reduction.

Friedmann said the cost of interstate calls placed by Davidson County inmates will drop from $18.34 to $3.75 for a 15-minute collect call and from $18.19 to $3.15 for a debit or prepaid call of the same length.

Friedmann’s organization joined other advocacy groups in petitioning the FCC to set a first-time cap on inmate calls.

Dorinda Carter, spokeswoman for the Tennessee Department of Correction, said the state will comply with the order, but added that interstate calls represent a relatively small percentage of calls by prison inmates.

Carter said the state plans to solicit proposals for a new contract sometime this month.

Melinda McDowell, spokeswoman for the Davidson County Sheriff’s office, said the county-run correctional facilities also will comply with the rate cut.

McDowell said the current prison phone contract has been extended for six months.

Both Davidson County and the state have contracts for prison phone service with Global Tel Link. Global and other major prison phone providers filed the suit challenging the rate cuts.

The January court ruling put on hold provisions in the FCC order that set other limits on inmate calls and required prison phone companies to provide financial data to the FCC on their actual costs.

In a separate action, the FCC also issued a proposed rule that would cap rates on in-state prisoner phone calls.

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