In 2015, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued an order leading to a possible reduction in phone charges at Los Angeles County jails. Inmates won’t find out until next week whether or not they’ll be charged less for phone calls across the board. The order issued by the FCC isn’t set to take effect until June 20th, and after several appeals, the board of supervisors is to vote on it next week. Originally, the vote was to come much sooner, however the board of supervisors wanted to investigate how much of a cut the reduction in phone charges would make. As they currently stand, the county takes in about $15 million dollars annually from prisoner phone calls.
The money collected by the county goes to the Inmate Welfare Fund, and is used to provide educational and recreational services for inmates. Of the $15 million dollars collected, 67.5 cents on the dollar is awarded to the county for uses benefiting the inmates, while the remainder goes to Public Communication Services Inc. – the provider of the phone service. In an effort to garner more money for the county inmates and less for the telecommunications provider, law enforcement officials are seeking the authority to terminate the agreement with Public Communication Services Inc. in favor of a better deal with another provider.
Among the changes set to take place under FCC order are a $1.25 charge on collect calls, a $1.05 charge for debit card calls as well as additional fees for paper billing and other extraneous services.
The reduction in phone charges carries with it some possibly far-reaching effects outside the county’s bottom line. A reduction in fees means that inmates may be able to call home more often, or at the very least spend more time on the phone, resulting in higher moral for those inside and outside the county jail’s walls.