States’ Rights Prevail in Challenge to FCC

Jun 14 2017

MADISON, Wis. – Last year, Attorney General Brad Schimel and a coalition of states, filed a lawsuit in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit challenging the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) rule regulating inmate calling costs. Yesterday, the Court found in favor of the State of Wisconsin and the coalition of states, holding that the regulation exceeded the FCC’s statutory authority.


“This court ruling is a win for state and local government rights,” said Attorney General Schimel. “Granting Wisconsin and communities the ability to regulate their own prisons and jails will allow the state to continue to provide this service to inmates.”


“We are very pleased with this success in court,” said Dean Meyer, Executive Director of Badger State Sheriffs’ Association. “This FCC rule would have compromised the safe and secure operations of Wisconsin jails. Thanks to Attorney General Schimel and his team, Wisconsin jail staff, inmates, and victims will be safer.”


The rule prohibited local jails and state prisons from charging inmates more than $0.11/minute for both intrastate and interstate phone calls. State prisons and local jails incur substantial security-related costs for Inmate Calling Systems (known as “ICS”), including costs incurred in monitoring calls (both recording and reviewing prison calls), costs for escorting prisoners to and from phones, costs for escorting phone repair technicians who need to maintain the system, and costs of continually updating ICS based on new technologies that may pose security risks to prisons. State prisons and local jails also incur costs in administering ICS, including the cost of responding to questions about the system from inmates and their families. The federal rule capping these rates effectively prevented the States and counties from recovering these costs. If the rule had gone into effect, it would have directly impacted the Wisconsin Department of Corrections, municipalities that operate jails, and many county sheriffs’ departments that operate jails and detention facilities.


The State of Oklahoma led this litigation on behalf of Wisconsin, Arizona, Arkansas, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, and Nevada.


Relevant court filings are attached.