University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name In the Matter of Rates for Interstate Inmate Calling Services / Wright Petition I PC-DC-0027
Docket / Court CC Docket No. 96-128 ( No Court )
State/Territory District of Columbia
Case Type(s) Prison Conditions
Special Collection Prison Legal News
Attorney Organization Center for Constitutional Rights
Washington Lawyers' Committee
Case Summary
This case deals with high phone charges for prisoners' phone calls. It was opened when the District Judge Gladys Kessler in PC-DC-0019 referred the raised issues to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), under the doctrine of ... read more >
This case deals with high phone charges for prisoners' phone calls. It was opened when the District Judge Gladys Kessler in PC-DC-0019 referred the raised issues to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), under the doctrine of primary jurisdiction. In PC-DC-0019, plaintiffs--including incarcerated persons and their family members--had filed a class action lawsuit against defendants (the private prison company CCA, and several telephone companies), seeking to declare illegal and recoup damages resulting from allegedly unconscionable telephone arrangements at various prisons and jails.

On November 3, 2003, plaintiffs (now petitioners) filed a petition (First Wright Petition) for rulemaking with the FCC, seeking restructuring of long distance inmate calling services (ICS) to address the telephone companies' anticompetitive practices that result in excessive telephone rates. Specifically, petitioners requested that the FCC "prohibit exclusive inmate calling service agreements and collect call-only restrictions at privately-administered prisons and require such facilities to permit multiple long distance carriers to interconnect with prison telephone systems" to allow competition.

Petitioners argued that the FCC accepted existing rules for exclusive arrangement and restrictions on inmate calling options on the assumption that security and penological considerations justified such rules. To show that the assumption was wrong, petitioners submitted an exhibit, the Dawson Affidavit, explaining that it was technologically and economically feasible for multiple carriers to offer telephone services to inmates at any given prison while meeting all legitimate security and penological needs.

The FCC received comments regarding the First Wright Petition. Opposing comments argued that petitioners' proposal would be technically and economically unfeasible because it would require radical "unbundling" of the private prison inmate telephone system, which would undermine security and increase costs. The petitioners countered that the proposed competitive system could be built on existing systems. Moreover, the petitioners argued that telephone companies' commission payments to prisons drive up service rates, and thus should be prohibited.

On March 1, 2007, the petitioners filed a second petition (Alternative Wright Petition) for alternative rulemaking proposal requesting that the FCC: establish benchmark rates for all interstate ICS to be no higher than $0.20/min for debit calling and $0.25/min for collect calling; require debit calling; prohibit per-call charges; and establish rate caps for all interstate and interexchange inmate calling services.

Opposing comments argued that the market was "robustly competitive" with providers competing nationally and the interstate calling costs have increased over the past years. Petitioners countered that the opponents failed to provide any data to rebut petitioners' cost analysis supporting their proposal. The main contention appears to have been focused on comparing rates over different states and the actual costs of providing services. (See Petitioners' Response to ICS Providers' Cost Study).

The FCC continued to receive comments. For example, in support of the petitioners, Prison Legal News submitted multiple documents including state-by-state comparison of prison phone rates, commission (kick-back) percentages, and actual cost of prison phone services, which has been the point of contention between petitioners and the companies that provide prison and jail phone services.

The related comments submitted until October 2012 are under CC docket 96-128. A number of them are included in this case record. The rest can be found in the FCC website . Use Proceeding Number "96-128" and click "here to remove the date restriction" to search. Important comments can be found by using "Wright," "Friedman," and "Wireline Competition Bureau" for the Name of Filer.

Subsequent proceedings are under WC Docket No. 12-375, which is PC-DC-0028 in this Clearinghouse.

David Cho - 11/25/2014


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Affected Gender
Female
Male
Defendant-type
Corrections
General
Phone
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Special Case Type
Out-of-court
Type of Facility
Government-run
Defendant(s) Federal Communications Commission
Plaintiff Description Family members of incarcerated persons in related PC-DC-0019 petitioned for rulemaking on the topic of prisoner telephone rates.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations Center for Constitutional Rights
Washington Lawyers' Committee
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Order reforming inmate calling service reform
Source of Relief Litigation
Order Duration 2013 - n/a
Case Closing Year 2012
Case Ongoing No
Case Listing PC-DC-0019 : Wright v. Corrections Corporation of America (D.D.C.)
PC-DC-0028 : In the Matter of Rates for Interstate Inmate Calling Services / Wright Petition II (No Court)
PC-WA-0015 : Judd v. AT&T (State Court)
Additional Resources
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Case Studies Judicial Policy Making and the Modern State: How the Courts Reformed America's Prisons
By: Malcolm M. Feeley & Edward Rubin (UC Berkeley Boalt Hall School of Law & Vanderbilt School of Law Faculty)
Citation: (1998)
[ Detail ]

  Civil Rights Injunctions Over Time: A Case Study of Jail and Prison Court Orders
N.Y.U. Law Review
By: Margo Schlanger (Washington University)
Citation: 81 N.Y.U. L. Rev. 550 (2006)
[ Detail ] [ PDF ] [ External Link ]

Links Cruel Confinement: Abuse, Discrimination and Death Within Alabama's Prisons
Written: Jun. 04, 2014
(Southern Poverty Law Center )
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  Prison Legal News Homepage
Prison Legal News
By: Prison Legal News
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Docket(s)
No docket sheet currently in the collection
General Documents
Petition for Rulemaking or, in the Alternative, Petition to Address Referral Issues in Pending Rulemaking
PC-DC-0027-0001.pdf | External Link | Detail
Date: 11/03/2003
Dawson Affidavit of Petition for Rulemaking or, in the Alternative, Petition to Address Referral Issues in Pending Rulemaking
PC-DC-0027-0002.pdf | External Link | Detail
Date: 11/03/2003
Petitioners' Reply Comments
PC-DC-0027-0003.pdf | External Link | Detail
Date: 04/21/2004
Dawson Declaration of Petitioner's Reply Comments
PC-DC-0027-0004.pdf | External Link | Detail
Date: 04/21/2004
Dawson Declaration of Petitioners' Alternative Rulemaking Proposal
PC-DC-0027-0006.pdf | External Link | Detail
Date: 02/16/2007
Petitioners' Alternative Rulemaking Proposal
PC-DC-0027-0005.pdf | External Link | Detail
Date: 03/01/2007
Petitioners' Reply Comments re Alternative Rulemaking Proposal
PC-DC-0027-0007.pdf | External Link | Detail
Date: 06/20/2007
Dawson Reply Declaration in Support of Petitioners' Alternative Rulemaking Proposal
PC-DC-0027-0008.pdf | External Link | Detail
Date: 06/20/2007
Petitioners' Response to ICS Providers' Cost Study
PC-DC-0027-0009.pdf | External Link | Detail
Date: 11/29/2008
Dawson Declaration in Response to ICS Providers' Interstate Call Cost Study
PC-DC-0027-0010.pdf | External Link | Detail
Date: 12/22/2008
Plaintiff's Lawyers Elkin, Laurie S (Illinois)
PC-DC-0027-0001 | PC-DC-0027-0003 | PC-DC-0027-0005 | PC-DC-0027-0007
Golden, Deborah Maxine (District of Columbia)
PC-DC-0027-0001 | PC-DC-0027-0003 | PC-DC-0027-0005 | PC-DC-0027-0007
Kennedy, Charles H. (District of Columbia)
PC-DC-0027-0003
Kiechel, Doane F. (District of Columbia)
PC-DC-0027-0005 | PC-DC-0027-0007
Kostyu, Jennifer L. (District of Columbia)
PC-DC-0027-0001 | PC-DC-0027-0003 | PC-DC-0027-0005 | PC-DC-0027-0007
Krogh, Frank W. (District of Columbia)
PC-DC-0027-0001 | PC-DC-0027-0005 | PC-DC-0027-0007 | PC-DC-0027-0009
Meeropol, Rachel (New York)
PC-DC-0027-0007
Olshansky, Barbara J. (New York)
PC-DC-0027-0001 | PC-DC-0027-0003 | PC-DC-0027-0005 | PC-DC-0027-0007
Seliger, Stephen G (Illinois)
PC-DC-0027-0001 | PC-DC-0027-0003 | PC-DC-0027-0005 | PC-DC-0027-0007
Tritt, Cheryl A. (District of Columbia)
PC-DC-0027-0001

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