(Cross-posted from Worth Rises)
Worth Rises has just won a major victory in the battle for prison phone justice. Yesterday, industry behemoth Securus pulled out of its agreement to purchase ICSolutions. This transaction would have further consolidated the prison telecom industry and given Securus unprecedented control, hurting competition and, in turn, public interest.
Prison telecom is a $1.2 billion annual industry, and Securus has bought and bullied its way to the top. The deal would have made Securus the nation’s largest prison telecom provider, and grown the market share of the industry’s duopoly, comprised of Securus and Global Tel Link, to roughly 90%. In attempting to acquire one of its last two major competitors, Securus sought to expand its power to exploit incarcerated consumers and their support networks.
In July 2018, when Worth Rises learned that Securus and ICSolutions had submitted a merger application to the FCC, they immediately took action. They published pieces on The Marshall Project and on their blog to raise public awareness because it was clear that the merger had the potential to fly under the radar. They submitted comments to the FCC protesting the transaction and responding to the companies’ attempts to deliberately mislead reviewers on the serious threat this merger presented.
Spurred by their comments and those of their advocacy partners, the FCC demanded that Securus and ICSolutions turn over nearly one million documents. Ultimately, the FCC agreed with their objections, citing the “arguments and evidence submitted by criminal justice advocates” in concluding that this merger was not in the public interest. Anticipating a denial, Securus and ICSolutions have withdrawn their merger application and abandoned the deal.
Worth Rises won a David-and-Goliath-type victory against a massive prison profiteer. It’s impossible to overstate the impact that the Securus-ICSolution merger would have had on incarcerated people and their loved ones had it succeeded. Securus, whose exorbitant call rates have led the predatory industry, would have wielded its power to further increase call rates in its existing and acquired contracts—a cost that would have been borne disproportionately by women in communities of color and poverty.
Everyday, these companies profit off of the separation of families and communities by exploiting the natural need for human connection. This win gets us closer to stopping them. With each victory, Worth Rises is ever more dedicated to fighting for prison phone justice.