The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) today raised calling rates for inmates. The Order adopted by the Commission builds on its landmark inmate calling service reforms of 2013 and 2015 by responding to issues raised in the record of the proceeding since then.

Last year, the FCC set limits on rates phone companies could charge inmates making local and long distance calls from prisons and jails.

Companies providing phone services filed a lawsuit arguing the rates the FCC established were too low and didn’t cover their costs. A federal court agreed to delay the implementation of the new rate limits

The rate caps adopted today are, on average, significantly lower than the 2013 interim rate cap of 21 cents a minute that currently applies to interstate long-distance calls.

The new caps will govern both in-state and interstate calling, reducing the price for most inmates of an average 15-minute call by nearly 35 percent.  The FCC’s inmate calling rate cap functions as a ceiling, not a floor, and so does not prevent states where calling costs are lower from reducing rates further.

The Order adjusts the FCC’s 2015 rate caps, which were blocked by a court stay pending appeal. Recognizing higher costs in small institutions, the new rates for debit/prepaid calls are as follows:

  • State or federal prisons: 13 cents/minute (11 cents/minute)
  • Jails with 1,000 or more inmates: 19 cents/minute (14 cents/minute)
  • Jails with 350-999 inmates: 21 cents/minute (16 cents/minute)
  • Jails of up to 349 inmates: 31 cents/minute (22 cents/minute)

Rates for collect calls are slightly higher in the first year and will be phased down to these caps after a two-year transition period.

Approximately 71 percent of inmates reside in state or federal prisons, and approximately 85 percent of inmates reside in institutions with populations exceeding 1,000.