Prisoners urge FCC to cap phone rates

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One inmate said his mother no longer answers his collect calls because of the cost. Another inmate said his wife has spent thousands of dollars on phone calls.

The letter were sent to the FCC in support of a petition launched by civil liberties groups that urges the FCC to limit the costs for prison phone calls.

The groups argue that high prices cut off inmates' connection with their family and community, making them more likely to commit new offenses.

They claimed the current system encourages exorbitant rates.

Prisons request bids from telephone companies to provide service and require each bid to include a fee to the prison. There is little incentive for the prison to keep the charges low. Inmates and their families have only one option for which service to use.  

A typical interstate collect call from prison has a $3.95 connection fee and rates as high as 90 cents per minute, according to the civil liberties groups. A 15-minute collect call could cost families $10 to $17 and a one-hour call once a week would cost $250 per month. 

Public Knowledge, one of the groups that launched the petition, posted the inmates' letters online Tuesday.