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    ICYMI: ‘The general wins one’

    June 22, 2017

    Excerpts from ‘The general wins one

    Arkansas Democrat-Gazette


    Why the Federal Communications Commission decided it had the right to cap telephone rates for this state's inmates is anybody's guess – if anybody was guessing that government always thinks it knows best. As if the apparatchiks making work for themselves in Washington, D.C., know all, including what goes into prisons and phone service.

    But, mirabile dictu, a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington has decided that the FCC overstepped its authority when it cut – and capped – telephone rates for prisoners. Nine attorneys general from various parts of the Union, including Leslie Rutledge of Batesville and this state's AG office, sued to get to this point. Which sometimes has to be done when it concerns the federal government vs. the people…

    A few points: First, and maybe foremost, the prison system isn't in the business of keeping prisoners from contacting family. "One of our goals," says Dina Tyler, deputy director of the Community Correction Department, "is to help relationships with families stay strong while someone is locked up." Otherwise, a prison isn't part rehabilitation. It's just a box. So one can assume that charging a (low) price for phone calls isn't the department's way of punishing inmates.

    That said, Point No. 2: Prison isn't supposed to be pleasant, and folks inside aren't supposed to have all the freedoms of those on the outside.

    Point No. 3: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit made this decision. That panel isn't exactly a den of right-wing hacks looking to impose conservative ideas on an unwilling nation…

    President Trump appointed Ajit Pai as the chairman of the FCC back in February. Soon after, the lawyers for the FCC said it would no longer fight in the courts to fight the states on this matter. Or, as Mr. Pai put it this week: "The D.C. Circuit agreed with my position that the FCC exceeded its authority ... . I plan to work with my colleagues at the Commission, Congress and all stakeholders to address the problem of high inmate calling rates in a lawful manner."

    What a pleasant change.

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