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Supervisor Fletcher Says Regressive Fee for Inmate Telephone Calls Should be Redesigned

10/27/20

Supervisor Nathan Fletcher today pushed back against a regressive fee charged to inmates and their families by the San Diego County Sheriff for telephone calls and other inmate services. Supervisor Fletcher voted not to accept the report on the Inmate Welfare Fund and vowed to work with state leaders to help create a system that will be more equitable, less punitive, and take serious issues related to rehabilitation. The Board of Supervisors ultimately favored accepting the report with a vote of 4 to 1.   

“Charging incarcerated folks 35 cents a minute for telephone calls is punitive. It does not just hurt them, it impacts their family and loved ones,” said Supervisor Fletcher. “The fees for phone calls and other services puts a sizable economic burden on people who are already struggling. The programs these fees fund is approximately two, one thousandths of one percent of the total public safety budget. In a board meeting where we allocated 36 million dollars for parks and waived fees for businesses, we could have taken the simple step of not making the families of those incarcerated pay exorbitant fees under the guise of funding rehabilitation programs. The system must be redesigned and I look forward to working with the State legislature on creating a more equitable, less punitive system.”

During his remarks at the Board meeting, Supervisor Fletcher cited an analysis by the San Francisco Treasurer found that 90% of phone calls and jail store costs are paid by the support networks of incarcerated people — mostly low-income women of color. Last year San Francisco opted to eliminate phone call fees for its jails.