Attorney General Leslie Rutledge distributed a news release boasting about the fact that she’d joined other states in fighting a Federal Communications Commission rule aimed at tamping down the exorbitant cost of jail and inmate phone calls — a revenue boon to government but a punishment to families of those behind bars.
She’s proud that the fight — aided by a Trump administration’s decision not to continue a policy established under the Obama administration — prevented a limit on “the amount of money that Arkansas and other local units of government could recover from Inmate Calling Systems (ICS).”
“Recover.” Nice word. Profiteer is better.
Said Rutledge: “The FCC failed to consider numerous issues including costs that would have directly impacted the local budgets of cities and counties across Arkansas.” See, Republicans don’t like taxes except in the form of punitive charges for inmate phone calls. Family values.
The FCC rule amounted to a 50 percent decrease in rates on in-state calls. (Imagine the nerve of giving a break on calls in the state where a prisoner is serving time and where his family most likely lives.)
Other news coverage pitched the decision in a different way:
A federal court struck down regulations intended to cap the price of some calls to prison inmates, which can cost families thousands of dollars a year.
The U.S. Court of Appeals said the FCC lacked authority to set rates between inmates and people in the same state.
The decision could end the years-long battle over the caps, which came to a head in a bizarre 11th-hour change from the Trump Administration. After current FCC Chairman Ajit Pai was appointed to lead the commission, the agency did not move to revoke the rules, but did stop defending them in court, leaving independent intervenors to continue the fight.
We’ve written about the gouging of inmate families often. The state makes about $1.5 million a year off inmate calls. It is cheaper to call California than Conway from the Cummins Unit.