Two dramatic changes are coming to the San Francisco CountyJail–free phone calls for prisoners and reduced markups for commissary items.
“These fees are overwhelmingly paid for by the friends and families of the incarcerated, especially low income women. It was a clear equity issue,” said the mayor’s spokesperson, Jeff Cretan.
Mayor London Breed’s office estimated the elimination of excessive charges paid by families of the incarcerated will cost the city about $1.7 million a year.
The changes were initiated by Mayor Breed and Sheriff Vicki Hennessy, the San Francisco Chronicle reported June 14.
Interviews with San Quentin prisoners illustrate the disparity of items charged throughout the state’s vending companies and using one of the most popular items as an example – Top Ramen soup. Alameda County jails charge $1.25 each or $30 per case of 24 packages. State prisons charge 25 cents each or $6 per case. Minutes for phone calls and initial hook- ups for the connecting parties range from free to $6 per call.
In May of this year, New York City became the first county to offer free phone calls and a paid internet service, the New York Post reported.
Currently California prisons are examining offering inmates the real world experience of internet communication.