Ohio inmates, who currently pay the 4th highest price for interstate phone calls in the nation, will see a dramatic reduction in costs following a decision by the Federal Communications Commission.
The group, which labeled the current rates as exorbitant, this week moved to limit how much inmates can be charged for phone calls. As a result, in Ohio, a 15-minute interstate call for which inmates currently pay $17.14 will be capped at $3.75.
The spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, JoEllen Smith, told The Columbus Dispatch that the FCC's ruling means "the rates will decrease for out-of-state calls" made by prison inmates.
The newspaper reports Ohio inmates pay some of the nation's highest rates for interstate calls coming to and from its prisons. The newspaper reports Ohio is only behind Alabama, Arkansas and Georgia.
Ohio inmates also pay other fees, including $3.50 for a completed collect call, $4.95 for a $25 prepaid calling card and $2.99 per month to include a cellphone on an inmate's list of permissible outsider calls.
The state receives an annual $15 million commission from Global Tel(asterisk)Link, which provides the phone service. Part of the money is used to cover employees' educational and training expenses, as well as the wages inmates collect for different prison jobs.
Smith says the state is working with the telecommunications company "to implement the rule in a timely manner."
The FCC ruling sets a 25 cents per minute limit on interstate calls. It also puts an interim rate cap of 12 cents per minute for debit and prepaid calls and 25 cents a minute for collect calls.
The FCC's move came in response to prison-rights advocates' claims that inmates and their families across the country were being overcharged. The commission's chairwoman, Mignon Clyburn, on Friday said the move was long overdue.
The commission in a statement said studies have shown inmates who stay in contact with family and community members while in prison "have a reduced rate of recidivism," adding that "about 2.7 million children would benefit from more frequent communication with an incarcerated parent."