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Thursday, June 12, 2014

Sheriff Asks Phone Company to Stop Gouging Inmates for Calls to Loved Ones

Posted By on Thu, Jun 12, 2014 at 10:01 AM

click to enlarge Sheriff Mirkarimi is not happy about the phone bill
  • Sheriff Mirkarimi is not happy about the phone bill

If you think you're on a tight budget, try being in prison for a week. From what we're hearing even local inmates are feeling burdened by the cost of living in San Francisco, specifically, San Francisco jails.

Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi says inmates are being "gouged" every time they want to make a call to a loved one. Since the phone service is a largely unregulated industry, inmates are being charged as much as $13.35 to talk to their families for 15 minutes. Today, the sheriff is calling on the Board of Supervisors to amend the phone contract for inmates and cut the cost for calls by 70 percent.

"Gouging poor people with exorbitant call costs is counterproductive and morally indefensible," Mirkarimi said in a statement released this morning. "It is a self-defeating proposition to prepare inmates for family reunification if unreasonable phone call costs prevent them from maintaining ties during incarceration."

Sheriff Mirkarimi's proposal to amend the inmate phone contract with Global Tel*Link will go before the Board of Supervisor's Government Audit and Oversight Committee this morning.

If approved by the full board at a later date, the cost of calls would drop from $13.35 to $4.05 for 15-minute collect and pre-paid collect in-state and long-distance calls, and 15-minute debit, in-state long-distance calls would drop 32 percent in cost, from $5.98 to $4.05.

The new prices would increase call volumes by 20 percent at the jails, Mirkarimi says, thus strengthening inmates' bonds to loved ones. Reports show that the more bonded they are with their families while incarcerated, the less likely they are to return to jail. It's worth noting that 39 percent of San Francisco's inmates are parents.

We'll see if city supervisors are willing to answer the sheriff's call.

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About The Author

Erin Sherbert

Erin Sherbert

Erin Sherbert was the Online News Editor for SF Weekly from 2010 to 2015. She's a Texas native and has a closet full of cowboy boots to prove it.

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