- Associated Press - Sunday, July 3, 2016

KUNA, Idaho (AP) - Idaho prisons have dropped the cost of inmates’ calls from 14 cents to 11 cents per minute in response to a potential mandate from the Federal Communications Commission.

The FCC said in 2013 that state and federal prison calls shouldn’t exceed 14 cents a minute. That order is on hold because of a lawsuit filed in opposition to the change, but the Idaho Department of Correction decided to move forward with the cost reduction anyway.

“That was the trigger,” IDOC Director Kevin Kempf told the Idaho Press-Tribune (http://bit.ly/29cBANA). “We saw that that’s what was coming down the road.”

The change went into effect last month. The FCC has said the mandate is intended to make sure calls are reasonably priced so people can stay in touch with loved ones behind bars. In 2015, the FCC noted that some states had call rates as high as $14 a minute.

Danielle Bothwell-Snyder, an inmate at the South Boise Women’s Correctional Center, said the phone is one of the few ways she has to stay in contact with her family. She said most other inmates make several calls a week, spending up to 30 minutes a day on the phone. A 30-minute call now costs $3.30 plus tax, compared with the previous price of $4.20.

“It makes it a lot more affordable,” Bothwell-Snyder said about the drop to 11 centers per minute.

Christina Creese, 33, is from of Concord, California, and won’t be eligible for parole until 2018. She is serving five to 15 years in the South Boise Women’s Correctional Center for forgery charges, and she relies on the IDOC phone system to call her parents, sister and friends.

“I would like it to be lower; it is expensive,” Creese said.

Her parents provide some money to her inmate account to pay for calls, and she also relies on the 30 cents an hour she makes working in the prison as a barber, painter and laborer.

It’s important to keep inmates communicating with their family when possible, Kempf said.

“Increased communication with their resources is a good thing,” he said. “It can help reduce recidivism. If you can bring families together, that helps structure that reentry, as opposed to walking out of prison (without connections).”

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Information from: Idaho Press-Tribune, http://www.idahopress.com

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