The Congressional Black Caucus hailed a decision Thursday by the Federal Communications Commission to lower rates for inmate calling services, which the caucus said will ensure reasonable and fair rates for families to stay in touch with incarcerated loved ones.

The FCC announced that they are establishing several new rate caps, including 11 cents per minute for all local and long distance calls from state and federal prisons, as well as $1.65 for a 15-minute intrastate call for most calls.

CBC Chairman G. K. Butterfield said the caucus has pushed the FCC for years to come up with a market-based solution to the issue, forming the Prison Telecom Working Group to craft legislation calling upon the commission to regulate inmate calling rates.

“These prohibitively expensive phone calls could range up to nearly $14 per minute and often force families and individuals to forgo contact with loved ones while they are incarcerated,” Butterfield said. “As we continue our work to decrease mass incarceration, today’s announcement is a step in the right direction to find solutions that help keep families connected, reduce recidivism, and get lives back on track.”

The caucus sent a letter earlier this month to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, urging an end to what they called predatory practices and encouraging a comprehensive solution to lowering calling rates. The CBC Prison Telecom Working Group includes Butterfield, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Bobby Rush, Bobby Scott, Donald M. Payne Jr., John Lewis and Hank Johnson.

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