FCC tells jails to cut phone call costs

By Gary Scott on October 19, 2015 at 1:03pm

Local law enforcement say a move by the Federal Communications Commission could impact revenue streams.

The FCC recently announced an adjusted limit for how much companies are allowed to charge for phone calls made from jails and prisons.

The commission first restricted rates two years ago, but the latest move, according to Associated Press reports, would cap rates on all local, in-state long distance, interstate and international calls starting early 2016.

While some phone calls have cost up to $25 for a 15-minute call, this would dramatically reduce a 15-minute call to less than two dollars.

Morgan County Sheriff Randy Duvendack says the Morgan County Jail contracts with a company called Securus, which provides the inmate phone systems used in cell blocks, in addition to the phones in the visitation booths.

“We sell phone cards that inmates can buy, which is probably the best option, or if they don’t have money on the books, they can try to call somebody,” he says.

Duvendack acknowledges the phone calls do raise money for the Morgan County Sheriff’s Office.

“That money goes back for their care, basically. We will purchase things back in the cell blocks that we may need, such as uniforms, TVs if they break, stuff like that, it goes back into the jail,” says Duvendack. “That being said, the effect on us is, if we have less income there, we would have to pay for some of these expenses out of our budget, which is tax dollars. So, it’s been a good thing for me to really control my costs with the budget,” he explains.

The FCC changes must still be approved by a vote, which is scheduled for Thursday.