Fixing the System Starts with Making it Easier for Families to Stay...

Fixing the System Starts with Making it Easier for Families to Stay Connected


Earlier in the week, VICE debuted a documentary on HBO called Fixing the System which explored the ways America’s criminal justice system undermines democracy, disrupts families, negatively impacts the economic well-being of too many communities, and ultimately fails to be ‘corrective’ in nature.

The documentary, which made headlines because it captured President Obama speaking with inmates in a federal prison – the first time that’s ever happened in the nation’s history – was, perhaps, most impactful in its ability to tell the stories of the lives disrupted by the incarceration process.

The timeliness of Fixing the System is underscored by recent gains the Black Lives Matter movement has made in increasing awareness about, and elevating to a presidential primary issue, the unjust criminalization, policing, and brutality against African Americans at the hands of law enforcement. Likewise, the Federal Communications Commission this week released an item that will ensure fair, just, and affordable rates for inmate calling.

Too often, families remain disconnected because the exorbitant cost of inmate calls makes keeping in regular contact with incarcerated family members nearly impossible. The item that the Commission will consider during its October 22 open meeting will cap the cost of inmate calls across state lines. Back in 2013, when the FCC was led by acting-Chair Mignon Clyburn, the Commission capped the cost of in-state calls.

According to the FCC, “these new caps reduce the average rates for the vast majority of inmate calls substantially, from $2.96 to no more than $1.65 for a 15-minute intrastate call, and from $3.15 to no more than $1.65 for a 15-minute interstate call.”

Word of the FCC’s latest effort to make inmate calling more affordable has garnered praise from consumer advocates and industry alike. For instance, Donna Epps, Vice President – Public Policy and Strategic Alliances for Verizon, said “Commissioner Clyburn and Chairman Wheeler deserve a lot of credit for their leadership on this important issue” because “further reform will help curb the excessive fees and help the families still struggling to pay burdensome inmate-calling rates.” Verizon used to provide inmate calling services until 2007, and as such has a historical perspective that makes them “believe it is crucial that we stand with the families, public interest groups, prison-rights advocates and many others who have petitioned the FCC to take further action.”

To learn more about the FCC’s efforts to reform prison phone rates, visit:

To learn more about America’s prison system, watch Fixing the System below.

As noted by Donna Epps,