Prisoners - literally a captive market - are perhaps the biggest victims of phone deregulation's unintended consequences. On Friday, after a decade of complaints from families and advocacy groups, the Federal Communications Commission finally moved to end the price-gouging that has enriched a handful of carriers, private-equity firms, and jurisdictions that controlled the prisons' phone contracts.
Here's how it works, according to the LA Times:
The prison phone market, which brings in $1.2 billion annually, is dominated by two little-known phone companies. Global Tel-Link, based in Atlanta, and Securus Technologies of Dallas, both backed by private equity firms, make up more than 80% of the market, according to Standard & Poor's.
The result is a patchwork of contracts across states and counties, meaning a 15-minute phone call with Securus can cost $17.30 from an Alaska prison or $1.75 from Missouri, one of eight states [not including Pennsylvania or New Jersey] that have banned commissions.