Skip to Main Content

Case Highlights

Inmate Calling Rates

Declaration authored by Brattle Principal Coleman Bazelon contributes to FCC's action to ensure "Just and Reasonable" rates for interstate inmate calling services.

Background

Background

In December 2012, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NOPR), which proposed to set a national maximum rate for debit and collect calls made from U.S. prison institutions. The purpose of the NOPR is to ensure that the rates for interstate long-distance calls made by prison inmates are just, reasonable, and fair.

Brattle’s Role

Brattle expert Dr. Coleman Bazelon prepared a Declaration pro bono that was included in comments submitted by petitioners Martha Wright, et al. The Declaration provided an economic analysis of what a “just and reasonable” rate would be for collect and debit calls made from prisons. Dr. Bazelon addressed some of the costs and benefits of implementing a national maximum rate for debit and collect calls, and concluded that the benefits likely far outweigh any associated costs. Furthermore, he found that the savings from reduced recidivism will almost certainly be greater than any commissions lost by prisons.

Outcome

Dr. Bazelon’s analysis of costs was used by the Commission to support its newly established safe harbor of $0.12 per minute for interstate debit calls and $0.14 per minute for interstate collect calls. In response to the FCC’s vote, Dr. Bazelon said, “With this Order, the FCC took an important step in correcting the failed market for inmate calling services. The caps and safe harbors established by the FCC today provide sufficient revenue for inmate service providers to recover the costs of providing inmate calling services, including prison-specific security functions, and still make a reasonable return on their investments. Furthermore, these lower rates will lead to significant broader social benefits as a result of greater prisoner family and community contact.”