ISSDA Supports Rate Structure Set Forth in FCC Ruling on Inmate Phones

The Iowa State Sheriffs’ & Deputies’ Association and our Jails Committee have been closely monitoring the inmate phone system issue and the maximum rate ruling recently issued by the FCC. While we acknowledge the need for an adequate fee structure that will allow jails the funds to supply phone services to inmates, we do not believe the rates issued by the FCC to be unreasonable. These rates are based on inmate population and also restrict some additional service charges that are seen as unreasonable.

Based on information provided in the FCC docket, some inmate phone providers actually saw revenue increases, not decreases, as family members no longer have the sticker shock of receiving a 1 minute call ranging from $3 up to $14.99. Many jails are showing increased revenue per inmate per month by using a “per minute” plan instead of a flat rate plan for a pre-paid block of time. This also helps jail staff avoid issuing refunds when a prepaid block of phone time is interrupted due to uncontrollable circumstances. Our Jails Committee reports that the jails using this format have actually seen an increase in revenue, which allows them to continue funding the phone system adequately. They also report that they appreciate the reduction in manpower necessary to issue refunds when necessary. This plan keeps the fee structure simple. If the call is interrupted after two minutes, the inmate is only charged for two minutes.

ISSDA supports the rate structure and restrictions on additional service charges set forth in the FCC ruling and recommends that our members do the same.

A summary of the FCC rates can be found on page #2 of this document and more information can be found at:

Major John Godar
ISSDA President

The FCC ruling is under appeal at this time so these restrictions are not yet mandatory. The new rate caps for local and long-distance debit and prepaid ICS calls will be as follows:

  •  State or federal prisons: 13 cents/minute
  •  Jails with 1,000 or more inmates: 19 cents/minute
  •  Jails with 350-999 inmates: 21 cents/minute
  •  Jails of up to 349 inmates: 31 cents/minute

Rates for collect calls are slightly higher in the first year and will be phased down to these caps after a two-year transition period. Charges on inmate calls that exceed these rate caps will be in violation of federal rules.

Additional service charges:
The Commission has also limited the types of ancillary services providers are permitted to charge users of inmate calling services and capped the amounts providers can charge for the permitted fees. Specifically, the Commission prohibits any additional service charges, except for the following:

Permitted Ancillary Service Charges and Taxes


Monetary Cap Per Use / Instruction

Applicable taxes and regulatory fees


Provider shall pass these charges through to consumers directly with no markup

Automated payment fees (includes payments by interactive voice response, web or kiosk)



Live agent fee, i.e., phone payment or account set up with optional use of a live operator



Paper bill/statement fees (no charge permitted for electronic bills/statements)



Prepaid account funding minimums and maximums


Prohibit prepaid account funding minimums and prohibit prepaid account funding maximums under $50

Third-party financial transaction fees, e.g., MoneyGram, Western Union, credit card processing fees and transfers from third party commissary accounts


Provider shall pass this charge through to end user directly, with no markup