Inmates in San Francisco county jails will be allowed to make free telephone calls, which is expected to reduce these costs passed on to their family and friends.
In June, the city’s mayor, London Breed, and sheriff, Vicki Hennessy, announced plans to cut costs of phone calls and commissary items sold to inmates, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
In a statement, Breed said “This change is an important continuation of our efforts to reform fines and fees that disproportionately impact low-income people and communities of color.”
San Francisco’s Financial Justice Project, an organization inside the treasurer’s office that analyzes fines and fees imposed on the poorest residents in the city, reported nearly 80% of telephone calls made by inmates from its jails are paid for by families and friends, mainly low-income women of color.
“These practices are predatory and disproportionately affect poor people,” said Public Defender Manohar Raju. “Reducing the financial burdens of phone fees for incarcerated people will allow them to stay better connected with their loved ones and gives them a better chance going forward after their release.”
The city reported that it costs $300 in a little over a month for someone to accept two 15-minute calls a day.
“When people are in jail they should be able to remain connected to their family without being con- cerned about how much it will cost them or their loved ones,” said Breed.
According to the mayor’s office, San Francisco will be the first county jail system in the nation to get rid of such costs. The city expects to make the changes within a year.
“Breed set aside about $1.7 million in the city’s two-year budget for the Sheriff’s Department to eliminate the fees charged for phone calls and the sometimes dramatic mark- ups placed on jail commissary merchandise,” the Chronicle reported.
“I’m really proud that San Francisco is putting people before profits,” said State Senator Holly Mitchell (D- Los Angeles). “When people can stay in better touch with their families and sup- port networks, it eases their reentry and it reduces recidivism.”