The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted on Thursday to crack down on prison phone rates in what can only be described as extortion by the phone companies.

“Voting to endorse today’s reforms will eliminate the most egregious case of market failure I have ever seen in my 17 years as a state and federal regulator,” FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn said. “The system is inequitable, it has preyed on our most vulnerable for too long, families are being further torn apart, and the cycle of poverty is being perpetuated.”

Phone companies were charging prisoners exorbitant amounts of money to make and accept phone calls to their friends and family, sometimes charging up to $14 per minute. The FCC rules cap phone calls at 11 cents per minute. Securus Technologies and Global Tel*Link control the $1.2 billion prison call market.

Included in high minute fees are even higher service fees that cause phone bills to cost as much as $500 per month in some cases.

“None of us would consider ever paying $500 a month for a voice-only service where calls are dropped for seemingly no reason, where fees and commissions could be as high at 60 percent per call and, if we are not careful, where a four-minute call could cost us a whopping $54,” added Clyburn.

For more on this story, visit VICE MotherboardFCC Votes to Stop Prisons from Charging $14 a Minute for Phone Calls”

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Farron Cousins is the executive editor of The Trial Lawyer magazine and a contributing writer at DeSmogBlog.com. He also hosts the weekly DeSmogCAST and serves as co-host for Ring of Fire on Free Speech TV. His writings have appeared on Alternet, Truthout, and The Huffington Post. Farron received his bachelor's degree in Political Science from the University of West Florida in 2005 and became a member of American MENSA in 2009. Follow him on Twitter @farronbalanced