|Adapted from Joshua Lott/Reuters.|
Twelve-year-old Kevin Reese was just a baby when his father was sent to prison in Minnesota. If it wasn't for their phone calls, he says, "I don't know if I would even know him."
But many times in Kevin's young life, he's been told that he wouldn't be able to talk to his dad — because the family just couldn't afford the high calling rates for inmates.
That's about to change.
Federal regulators took new steps on Thursday to slash the cost of calls in prison, which they said can run as high as $14 a minute.
The move by the Federal Communications Commission was described as a "huge step forward" by one reform group and denounced as "wrong-headed" by a phone service provider that vowed to lead an industry challenge.
The FCC's decision eliminates or limits fees commonly tacked on by providers. It also caps the maximum cost of a 15-minute in-state or local call at $1.65 and lowers the per-minute rate.
The new rules affect inmates in federal and state prisons, including immigrant detention centers. They also apply to local jails, though rates are higher in smaller facilities.
"Calls that used to cost a dollar a minute now could be as low as 11 cents," said Aleks Kajstura, legal director at the Prison Policy Initiative, which has been pushing to make prison calls more affordable.
She said the new rates will benefit society as a whole, not just those serving time.
"Studies show keeping communication in between families members and incarcerated loved ones reduces recidivism, and that helps us all," she said.