LITTLE ROCK — Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said Thursday a federal appeals court has ruled that Arkansas and six other states can intervene in a lawsuit challenging a Federal Communications Commission order limiting the rates that can be charged for inmates’ phone calls.

LITTLE ROCK — Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said Thursday a federal appeals court has ruled that Arkansas and six other states can intervene in a lawsuit challenging a Federal Communications Commission order limiting the rates that can be charged for inmates’ phone calls.


The Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, which partially granted a motion to stay the order March 7, said Arkansas, Wisconsin, Nevada, Arizona, Indiana, Louisiana and Missouri can intervene in a lawsuit filed by Oklahoma against the FCC.


The FCC’s order reduces previously existing caps by more than 50 percent. It caps inmate calls at 11 cents per minute for all local and long-distance calls from state and federal prisons.


In jails, maximum rates will range from 14 cents to 22 cents per minute, depending on the size of the institution. The new caps will apply to both intrastate and interstate calls.


Rutledge said the FCC failed to take into account significant costs borne by the states related to prison phone systems and the states’ need to recoup the costs from phone providers.


"It is important for Arkansas to add its voice in strong opposition to the FCC’s order," she said in a statement. "By being a part of this litigation, I will work to ensure that local budgets and law enforcement agencies across this state are not burdened with a costly, unlawful order from the federal government. I am confident that in the end, the courts will invalidate this order, which failed to consider cost permanently."


Rutledge also called the FCC’s decision to make the caps apply to intrastate as well as interstate calls "a constitutionally suspect power grab."


The FCC has said high rates charged for inmate calls have made contact between many inmates and their families out of reach, noting that the families often live in poverty.