Court Blocks FCC Bid to Lower Prison Phone Rates

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 12: FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn testifies before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation during an FCC oversight hearing on March 12, 2013 in Washington, DC. FCC members warned that a planned 2014 incentive auction of broadcast TV spectrum for mobile broadband use could encounter setbacks.   
National Journal
Brendan Sasso
Add to Briefcase
Brendan Sasso
Jan. 13, 2014, 10:32 a.m.

A fed­er­al court on Monday blocked por­tions of the Fed­er­al Com­mu­nic­a­tions Com­mis­sion’s ef­fort to lower the rates that pris­on­ers and their fam­il­ies pay for phone calls.

The de­cision is a set­back to Mignon Cly­burn, an FCC com­mis­sion­er who made pris­on call re­form her top pri­or­ity dur­ing her six months as act­ing chair­wo­man last year.

The three-judge pan­el of the D.C. Cir­cuit Court put por­tions of the FCC’s pris­on call or­der on hold while it con­siders the law­suit. 

Cly­burn has ar­gued that phone com­pan­ies are gou­ging pris­on­ers and their fam­il­ies, who have no oth­er op­tion for keep­ing in touch.

“Too of­ten, fam­il­ies are forced to choose between spend­ing scarce money to stay in touch with loved ones or cov­er­ing life’s ba­sic ne­ces­sit­ies,” she said at an emo­tion­al meet­ing last Au­gust when the FCC ap­proved the ac­tion.

Cly­burn ar­gued that cut­ting in­mates off from their fam­il­ies and com­munit­ies makes them more likely to com­mit new of­fenses.

In­mates must pay as much as $17 for a 15-minute phone call, ac­cord­ing to the FCC, and many must pay ad­di­tion­al fees for every call they place. The FCC or­der re­quires com­pan­ies to jus­ti­fy the rates they charge in­mates.

The or­der also caps rates at 21 cents per minute for pre­paid calls and 25 cents per minute for col­lect calls.

But com­pan­ies that provide phones ser­vices to pris­ons sued the FCC, claim­ing the agency over­stepped its au­thor­ity, failed to fol­low prop­er ad­min­is­trat­ive pro­ced­ure, and vi­ol­ated their con­sti­tu­tion­al rights.

The court blocked the FCC re­quire­ment that com­pan­ies jus­ti­fy their costs, but the over­all caps will re­main in place. 

Re­pub­lic­an FCC Com­mis­sion­er Ajit Pai voted against the pris­on call or­der in Au­gust, warn­ing that the com­mis­sion was on weak leg­al ground.

In a joint state­ment, Chair­man Tom Wheel­er, Com­mis­sion­er Jes­sica Rosen­wor­cel and Cly­burn said they are pleased that the rate caps will go in­to ef­fect next month.

“These fam­il­ies have been forced to pay ex­or­bit­ant rates for far too long,” the Demo­crat­ic of­fi­cials said.  

“Al­though we are dis­ap­poin­ted that the court gran­ted a par­tial stay on oth­er as­pects of the In­mate Call­ing Ser­vices Or­der, we look for­ward to a hear­ing on the mer­its soon, and to ad­opt­ing fur­ther re­forms quickly.”

What We're Following See More »
BUT IS HE A YES VOTE?
Cornyn Attempting to Get McCain Back for Health Vote
3 hours ago
THE LATEST
“TIME HAD RUN OUT” FOR ILL BABY
Charlie Gard’s Parents End Legal Fight
4 hours ago
THE LATEST

"A lawyer representing Chris Gard and Connie Yates told the High Court 'time had run out' for the baby. Mr. Gard said it meant his 'sweet, gorgeous, innocent little boy' will not reach his first birthday on 4 August. 'To let our beautiful little Charlie go' is 'the hardest thing we'll ever have to do,' his mother said. Charlie's parents said they made the decision because a US doctor had told them it was now too late to give Charlie nucleoside therapy.

Source:
AGENCY SOUGHT TO DELAY IMPLEMENTATION
11 States Sue EPA Over Chemical Rule
4 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"Eleven states have sued the Environmental Protection Agency over its June decision to delay implementation of a chemical safety rule" until 2019. "The state attorneys general, led by New York’s Eric Schneiderman (D), argue the rule is important for 'protecting our workers, first-responders and communities from chemical accidents' and should be allowed to take affect as planned by the Obama administration’s EPA.

Source:
ULTIMATUM ON ACA
Trump: You’re With Us Or Against Us
4 hours ago
THE LATEST
$1.6 BILLION SET ASIDE FOR WALL
House Freedom Caucus Chair: Shutdown Over Wall Funding Unlikely
5 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) on Monday said that funding for President Trump's controversial border wall is unlikely to cause a government shutdown. 'The odds of a government shutdown are very minimal when it comes to that,' the conservative lawmaker said at an event in Washington, D.C. 'I do think the funding of the border wall will happen,' he added. Appropriators have set aside $1.6 billion to fund new wall and fencing sections on parts of the U.S.-Mexico border covering a few dozen miles."

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login