Like many industries, the prison communication sector has developed relatively fragile ecosystem, where all of the players find themselves in a delicate equilibrium that serves the interests of all. However, the present communication space has long been the target of many different social justice groups. Among these are prisoner rights groups, such as a the Prison Policy Initiative, which seeks to essentially eliminate all private enterprise from the U.S. prison system.
This has led to a concerted effort to strictly regulate the amount of money that can be charged to prisoners to make outgoing phone calls throughout the United States. But many companies, especially Securus Technologies, have vocally opposed any such regulations. They have made the case that, without the ability to charge elastic rates that vary drastically from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, the entire system would quickly collapse, ultimately leading to prisoners not being able to have access to telecommunications while incarcerated at all.
In fact, this scenario very nearly played out when, in August of 2016, the Federal Communications Commission decided to put a strict cap on outgoing phone call rates paid by prisoners in carceral institutions across the United States. The cap would have limited rates to 21 cents per minute, an amount that, while perhaps making sense in certain institutions, would have left others unable to meet the most basic demands of operating their phone systems.
Together with its archrival, Global Tel Link, Securus was able to file an injunction with a district court in Washington D.C. Ultimately, the regulations were stayed and eventually abandoned. However, Securus is quick to point out that, should be regulations have been allowed to go through and become legally binding, up to half the nation’s prisoners would have immediately lost their ability to stay in touch with their family members on the outside.