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WNIJ's summary of news items around our state.

State Senate To Address Bill That Caps Rates On Prison Phone Calls

Katie Finlon

The Illinois Senate this week takes up a measure placing a nickel-a-minute cap on the rates charged to prison inmates for phone calls.


State Representative Carol Ammons’ bill cleared the House last week.  The Urbana Democrat says Illinois makes 12-million dollars a year from those calls… more than any other state.   

Ammons says collect calls from prison and calls made with calling cards… cost the families of inmates as much as 30-dollars per call.   And Ammons says the fees charged by the phone service providers that handle the calls have gone largely unregulated. And she calls the commission that state government collects on the fees the equivalent of “kickbacks”. 

AMMONS:  “Even if it’s two minutes – you still have to pay the same amount of money.  Whether it’s two minutes or 30 minutes – doesn’t make a difference.  And so we wanted to address this from a consumer side view.  The consumer should not pay the state of Illinois to provide a service that the state should provide for those who are incarcerated.” 

Ammons appeared on the public radio talk show, ‘The 21st’ Monday.  She says there’s an ethical problem with the state charging the highest commission possible in order for a phone service provider to receive its contract. 

And out of that commission to the state, Ammons says only a small portion of the money goes to the state Department of Corrections, while most of ends up with the Department of Central Management Services.