FCC Votes For Decreased Prison Phone Call Rates

CC image Wikipedia.orgThe Federal Communications Commission voted in a 2-1 decision to cap how much a prison phone service provider can charge for a 15-minute long-distance call.

The FCC decided that prison phone service providers can only charge a maximum of 25 cents per minute on long-distance calls, meaning a standard 15-minute long-distance call won’t exceed $3.75.

Two-Fold Decision Making

The decision was made for two main reasons. First, the FCC decided to place limits on the rather unregulated sector because they felt certain price setting techniques were getting out of hand. Prior to the federal order, many companies were charging as much as $20 for a 15-minute phone call. This meant that families who spoke to their loved one in prison once a week for 15 minutes were sometimes hit with a $100 bill at the end of the month.

The expensive charges also factored into the FCC’s decision for another reason. Chairman Mignon Clyburn said if families can afford to stay connected with their loved ones, the likelihood that the prisoner will commit another crime is lessened. Clyburn added that 2.7 million children have a parent in prison.

“It’s been a long, long time coming,” said Clyburn.

Phone Companies Object

Telecommunications giants Global Tel*Link, Securus, and Century Link objected to the ruling, saying prison communications are more expensive to operate than regular service plans.

They also added that a portion of the fees go to the prisons to pay staff salaries and benefits, and fund in-house educational programs. In 2012, prisons in 42 states received just over $100 million in commissions from the telecommunications providers.

Attorney Miriam Szatrowski comments

In situations where a parent is incarcerated, the rest of family is often left struggling to pay the rent and put food on the table. Accepting collect calls at current rates, even short ones once a week, is just not an option for these families.

People in the Illinois Department of Corrections are frequently incarcerated far from their homes, so without phone calls, they have no contact with family members at all. This causes children to be cut off from their parents, and makes it much harder for incarcerated people to maintain family connections that make it easier to reintegrate into their families and communities upon release. This new rule will make a huge difference for Illinois inmates and their families, allowing them to stay in touch and stay connected.

Related source: Washington Post

Chicago Man Gets 45 Years in Prison after 8th DUI

This week a man was sentenced by Champaign County court to 45 years in prison after being convicted of his 8th DWI charge.

48-year-old Carter Puckett was arrested last summer for aggravated DUI – the eighth such offense in his lifetime. Puckett was pulled over after police witnessed him swerving erratically in and out of his lane. The arresting officer reported that Puckett’s speech was slurred, and his breath reeked of alcohol.

Puckett blew a blood alcohol concentration of .15 – almost double the Illinois legal limit of .08.

Due to his record of 7 prior drunk driving charges, Puckett could have been sentenced to anywhere from 6 to 60 years jail time. The judge ultimately decided to sentence him to 45 years.

Brett Appelman Comments

An eighth DUI is charged as a Class X Felony, the highest criminal charge in Illinois, aside from Murder.  The legislature decided that having that many DUI convictions means that you are such a danger to society that you need to be locked up for a long period of time.  The absolute minimum time you would spend in prison based on this charge is six years.  This charge is not eligible for probation or any type of suspended sentence – if you are convicted for an eighth DUI you WILL go to prison for a minimum of six years.

Even though in this case the defendant did not cause an accident, injure anyone, or do anything else that would have aggravated his charges, the fact that it is his eighth DUI case mandated that he be charged as a Class X.  Even a second DUI charge carries a mandatory minimum of five days in jail or 240 hours of Community Service.

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