The Big Disconnect: Will Anyone Answer the Call to Lower Excessive Prisoner Telephone Rates?

June 16, 2012

As the American prison population has exploded in the last quarter century, the prison telephone industry has grown into a billion-dollar market. Telecommunications companies are granted statewide prison monopolies that subject prisoners’ loved ones to grossly inequitable telephone charges. As a result, many families become saddled with outrageously high phone bills. Phone companies defend these rates as necessary to cover government required security-enhancing technology. However, evidence indicates that these excessive rates are a product of the generous commissions companies pay to states, in exchange for exclusive service contracts. This Comment analyzes current telephone policies in several state prison systems, discussing the relative strengths and shortcomings of each policy. This Comment will also discuss and critique potential legislative, regulatory, and judicial approaches to addressing the problem.