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Board approves free phone calls for inmates


Could ease financial strain for families

The Board of Supervisors approved a motion this week that would provide free phone calls for jail inmates no later than Dec. 1.

The motion by Supervisors Hilda Solis and Holly Mitchell states that easing inmate telephone access to family and friends “is a factor in reduction of the rate of recidivism’’ ... and has been shown to reduce misconduct in jails “by lowering anxiety and tension.’’

“Providing free phone calls in county jails will relieve and remove the huge financial strain from families who have been unfairly impacted by the incarceration of their loved ones,’’ the motion states. “We should not be penalizing families simply for association.’’

Two years ago, the board moved to consider making inmate calls free. It also moved for an audit of inmate welfare funds to see if money generated by inmate phone calls was actually being used to benefit inmate recovery and rehabilitation programs, as required.

The motion states that “there are claims that the funds have been used to fix plumbing issues or leaking toilets,’’ which are supposed to be paid by the sheriff’s department, not inmate funds.

In addition to ordering free inmate calls by Dec. 1, the motion would also direct the sheriff to work with the CEO, Civilian Oversight Commission and Sybil Brand Commission “to develop an implementation program with a funding proposal, in 90 days, in writing, to provide more and diverse programming which will be  equitably available to people who are incarcerated.

“Regardless of the cost of the phone calls, tying the loss of revenue and profits generated by people who are incarcerated, and their families should not be the deciding factor on whether L.A. County provides free phone calls to people who are incarcerated,’’ the motion states.

“Whether that revenue exists or not, LASD is still responsible for providing programming to incarcerated people and maintaining the jails where they are incarcerated. Not doing so is antithetical to `care first’ and is putting profits over people.’’