Phoney Profits

The Iowa Department of Corrections has a long history of charging excessive amounts for inmate phone calls which have resulted in huge profits at the expense of inmates and their families.

For a number of years the spokesperson for the department, Fred Scaletta, has told us that the Department is working on a new contact that will lower the rates. It never happens. In addition to this, the current service is very poor. Many of the phones are located outside, making it impossible for prisoners to make calls during bad weather. There are often interruptions in calls and this means that the caller is charged an additional fee to call back. For many years all calls were collect with the rates very high. Collecting the fees from families, who are often low income, was not always easy. The Department switched to prepaid calls. This means that they are able to collect the fees at the time a call is made with no loss. When the switch was made to prepaid calls the charges went UP. Collect calls were also eliminated so if prisoners don’t have money in their accounts they can’t make calls.

For many years the Iowa Chapter of Citizens United for the Rehabilitation of Errants has participated in a national campaign for affordable phone charges. In a growing number of states, such as our neighbors, Nebraska and Michigan rates are now revenue neutral. This means that the charge is only what it costs to operate the system.

We now have a unique opportunity to participate in a campaign to give input to the Federal Communication Commission regarding excessive inmate phone charges. They are officially proposing new rules which would lower the interstate phone rate for prisoners.

WE are being asked by The Campaign for Prison Phone Justice, Media Action Grassroots Network, Prison Legal News and a number of other human rights and justice organizations to encourage our members to submit letters to the FCC by March 25!

In order for your letter to be accepted you need to include 3 things:

Rulemaking number (12-375),

Your name and address, your views on the subject

Comments through the U.S. Postal Service should be mailed to:

 

Marlene H. Dortch, Secretary,

Federal Communications, Commission,

Office of the Secretary,

445 12th St. SW

Room TW-B204,

Washington, D.C. 20554

Comments cannot be e-mailed.

Sample Letter:

Name:

Address:

FCC Proceeding: 12-375

 

Commissioners and Staff,

 

(Insert your reasons for feeling that inmate phone charges are excessive. Include personal experiences it you have had them.)

 

Closing: “You have the authority to help families of inmates by lowering the amount per minute the companies are able to charge, and a choice in services so maybe that will bring the fees down. Thank you for looking into this matter.”

Sincerely,

(Your Name)

I have much more information which I can send you, but I have trying to give you the basics and I hope that you will respond on behalf of your organizations and individually as well. We hope that changes in the rules regarding interstate calls will also affect the cost of local and calls made within the states.

Thank you; please act so that your letter is received by March 25!!!

Jean Basinger, President of Iowa CURE and Chairperson, Steering Committee, Justice Reform Consortium