H.R.1403 - Family Telephone Connection Protection Act of 2013
To amend the Communications Act of 1934 to require the Federal Communications Commission to prescribe rules regulating inmate telephone service rates.
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SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.
SEC. 2. FINDINGS.
(1) It is the policy of the United States to ensure that all Americans are afforded just and reasonable communications services, including those families that pay rates for inmate telephone service.CommentsClose CommentsPermalink
(3) Except for emergency purposes, family members are not allowed to call people incarcerated in correctional institutions; incarcerated persons are typically allowed to call family members and other pre-approved individuals only through payphones physically located on the premises of correctional institutions.CommentsClose CommentsPermalink
(5) Regardless of whether the prisoners’ calls are placed collect or through a debit account, the prisoners’ family members typically pay for the calls, either through their telephone bills, in the case of collect calls received from prisoners, or by making deposits directly into prisoners’ debit accounts.CommentsClose CommentsPermalink
(6) It is clear from various studies that maintaining frequent and meaningful communications between people who are incarcerated and family members is key to the successful social reintegration of formerly incarcerated individuals. Such contact reduces recidivism and facilitates rehabilitation, which in turn reduces crime and the future costs of imprisonment.CommentsClose CommentsPermalink
(7) Frequent communications between incarcerated persons and family members is burdened, and in some cases, prevented, by excessive inmate telephone service rates. Excessive inmate telephone service rates thus weaken the family and community ties that are necessary for successful reentry into society by persons who were formerly incarcerated and the reduction in crime resulting from successful reentry.CommentsClose CommentsPermalink
(9) The rates for calls from correctional institutions are some of the highest rates in the United States, with some per-minute charges reaching $1 and service or connection charges of $3.00 per call.CommentsClose CommentsPermalink
(10) Information compiled by the Congress and the Federal Communications Commission shows that the high rates are due in part to the lack of competition between telephone companies that provide long distance inmate telephone service to correctional institutions.CommentsClose CommentsPermalink
(11) There are no competitive forces providing incentives for those carriers to lower prices or operate efficiently because, unlike the mass market, only one carrier is typically permitted to provide long distance inmate telephone service within each correctional institution.CommentsClose CommentsPermalink
(12) High calling rates also are due in part to commissions that carriers pay to correctional institution administrators for the exclusive right to provide long distance inmate telephone service in a correctional facility. In some cases, such commissions can account for as much as 60 percent of the total revenues received from the use of prison payphones.CommentsClose CommentsPermalink
(13) The collection of such commissions by correctional institution administrators and State departments of correction based upon interstate telecommunications revenues is a burden on interstate commerce.CommentsClose CommentsPermalink
(14) Due to the lack of competition for telephone services within correctional institutions, families of people in prison, many of whom have low incomes, cannot choose the long distance carrier with the lowest calling rates and must pay the excessive rates charged by the carrier having the exclusive right to provide long distance service to the correctional institution from which the call originates.CommentsClose CommentsPermalink
(15) The Commission has the expertise and authority to regulate inmate telephone service. Because parties to Commission rulemaking proceedings have raised issues regarding its authority to implement meaningful relief for excessive inmate telephone service rates, Congress finds it necessary and appropriate to reaffirm that the Commission has the authority to implement the types of relief set forth in this Act.CommentsClose CommentsPermalink
SEC. 3. RESTRICTIONS ON THE PROVISION OF INMATE TELEPHONE SERVICE.
‘(10) The term ‘collect’ or ‘collect call’ refers to a telephone call from a person incarcerated in a correctional institution that is billed to the subscriber receiving the call.CommentsClose CommentsPermalink
‘(11) The term ‘commission’ refers to a fee or other payment by a provider of inmate telephone service to an administrator of a correctional institution, department of correction, or similar entity, based upon, or partly upon, inmate telephone service revenue.CommentsClose CommentsPermalink
‘(12) The term ‘debit account’ refers to the payment of inmate telephone service through a prisoner’s prepaid card or other account, which can be accessed only through an access code, personal identification number, or similar identifier.CommentsClose CommentsPermalink
‘(13) The term ‘inmate telephone service’ includes the provision of telephone service enabling persons incarcerated in correctional institutions to originate interstate calls at payphones or other telephones that are designated for prisoners’ personal use, regardless of whether the calls are collect, paid through a debit account, or paid through any other means.CommentsClose CommentsPermalink
‘(14) The term ‘provider of inmate telephone service’ means any common carrier that provides inmate telephone service or any other person determined by the Commission to be providing inmate telephone service.’.CommentsClose CommentsPermalink
‘(1) RATES- In order to ensure that charges for inmate telephone service are just, reasonable, and nondiscriminatory, the Commission shall consider, either in a rulemaking proceeding that is pending as of the date of enactment of the Family Telephone Connection Protection Act of 2013 or in a new rulemaking proceeding, the following types of regulation of inmate telephone service, all of which are within the Commission’s jurisdiction and authority:CommentsClose CommentsPermalink
‘(C) Prescribing variable maximum compensation rates depending on such factors as carrier costs, the size of the correctional facility served, and other relevant factors identified by the Commission.CommentsClose CommentsPermalink
‘(E) Prohibiting the payment of commissions by providers of inmate telephone service to administrators of correctional institutions, departments of correction, and similar entities.CommentsClose CommentsPermalink
‘(F) Requiring administrators of correctional institutions, departments of correction, and similar entities to allow more than one provider of inmate telephone service to provide interstate inmate telephone service at a correctional institution in order that prisoners have a choice of such providers.CommentsClose CommentsPermalink
‘(2) SCOPE- The regulations adopted by the Commission shall be technologically neutral and shall not jeopardize legitimate security and penological interests. To the extent the Commission regulations reduce or eliminate the revenue derived by administrators of correctional institutions, departments of correction, and similar entities from the receipt of commissions, such effects of Commission regulations shall not be considered as jeopardizing or otherwise affecting legitimate security or penological interests.CommentsClose CommentsPermalink
‘(3) DEADLINES AND PERIODIC REVIEW- The Commission shall prescribe regulations to implement the provisions of this subsection within one year after the date of enactment of the Family Telephone Connection Protection Act of 2013. The Commission shall review, on a triennial basis, the regulations promulgated under this subsection, including whether any Commission-established compensation rates should be modified.CommentsClose CommentsPermalink
‘(4) STATE PREEMPTION- To the extent that any State requirements are inconsistent with the Commission’s regulations affecting or pertaining to interstate inmate telephone service, including restrictions on the payment of commissions based upon interstate inmate telephone service revenues or earnings, the Commission’s regulations on such matters shall preempt such State requirements.CommentsClose CommentsPermalink
‘(2) RESTRICTION- No provider of inmate telephone service may block or otherwise refuse to carry a call placed by an incarcerated person on the grounds that the provider has no contractual or other arrangement with the local exchange carrier serving the intended recipient of the call or other common carrier involved in any portion of the transmission of the call.’.CommentsClose CommentsPermalink