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FCC Rate Caps on Prison Phone Calls to Impact Nevada DOC’s Budget

The rate caps recently imposed on interstate (long distance) prison phone calls by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) signal much-needed financial relief for prisoners and their families; however, they will also leave an estimated $650,000 gap in the 2014 budget for the Nevada Department of Corrections.

Due to the FCC’s rate caps, which have not yet gone into effect, the Nevada Board of Prison Commissioners was informed on December 17, 2013 that the state’s prison system will no longer be able to charge per-call connection fees for interstate phone calls.

The Associated Press incorrectly reported that the Nevada DOC’s interstate phone rates include a $1.00 connection fee; actually, the connection fee for long distance calls from Nevada prisons is $2.50, plus $.49 per minute. The Nevada DOC’s intrastate (in-state) phone rates include a $1.00 connection fee plus $.13 per minute – but intrastate calls are not covered by the FCC’s order. [See: PLN, Dec. 2013, p.1].

When the rate caps go into effect – which is scheduled for February 13, 2014, although pending litigation may extend that date – prison systems will be allowed to charge a maximum of $.21 per minute for interstate debit and prepaid calls, and $.25 per minute for interstate collect calls.

Nevada prison officials said revenue generated from prisoners’ phone calls helps to fund prison programs and services, and that the rate caps would result in a budget shortfall of $650,000. The revenue is generated from a 54.2% commission kickback that the Nevada DOC receives pursuant to its contract with phone service provider CenturyLink.

Prison officials did not explain why revenue from such kickbacks – which mostly comes from price-gouging prisoners’ family members through excessively high phone rates – is used to fund prison programs and services in the first place.

Source: Associated Press

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