The Government Just Made Prison a Little Less Terrible

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For the families and friends of inmates, hearing the sound of a loved one’s voice can be an unaffordable luxury, with phone companies sometimes charging up to $14 per minute for calls from correctional facilities. The Federal Communications Commission took a step to change that today, voting to approve new rules on the rates companies can charge for inmates’ in-state calls.

The rules close a loophole created in 2013, when the FCC limited rates on interstate calls to 21 cents per minute but did not regulate in-state calls. The commission will now cap the cost of prepaid in-state calls from state and federal prisons at 11 cents a minute. County jails will use a tiered system, with calls from the smallest jails costing the most (22 cents a minute) and calls from the biggest jails costing the least (14 cents a minute).

The new rules also ban companies from charging a flat rate for calls, phase down collect call rates, and eliminate most of the add-on charges like payment and billing fees, which right now can bump up the cost of a call by 40 percent. Additionally, the rules increase the access to calling services for people with hearing or speech disabilities.

Industry giants like GTL and Securus have fought the move, and many have introduced exorbitantly priced video visitation services that have replaced in-person visits in some places.

“This system has preyed on our most vulnerable for far too long,” FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn told the Washington Post. “Families are being further torn apart and the cycle of poverty is being perpetuated.”

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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