Phone Companies Sued for Ripping Off Families and Friends of Prisoners with Artificially High Phone Charges

December 16, 1999

Prisons, in theory, were intended as places for rehabilitation and punishment, but more and more are being used as places for corporations to make a profit. With the U.S. prison population projected to reach 2 million this February, major telephone companies such as AT&T and MCI offer states large commissions, sometimes as large as 55 percent-to charge excessively high rates for calls made to the families and friends of prisoners. A study for the Florida legislature conducted last year found that 11 of the 12 states with the largest prison populations earned revenue in this manner. New York projects phone commission income of $21.5 million for this fiscal year.


  • Michael Deutsch, a lawyer based in Chicago who is suing on behalf of families in Illinois.
  • Steve Whitman, Organizer, Prison Phone Project. He works with families and friends of inmates to fight against the phone rates.