County scams Inmate's families on phone calls

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You have a collect call from (unintelligible), an inmate at the Dane County Jail. Do you accept the call

Yes. I can afford it.
Yes. I'm skipping on my phone bill anyway.
No votes
This is Supervisor David Blaska. My number is 271-4882.
Total votes: 11

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Yo Andy:

Postby bmasel » Wed Sep 29, 2004 5:05 am

Does the State compensate the County for prisoners on Probation holds? Enough to cover real costs? Can the County refuse to take certain classes, such as, for instance, those whose only violation is marijuana metabolites in their urine? Is this one of those unfunded mandates the Republicans love to talk about?

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Postby ShaneDog » Wed Sep 29, 2004 8:13 am

Andy Olsen wrote:If we dropped the entire system now it would cost the county, at least, $1 million in lost revenues.

So you think it's moral to profit off of people wanting to be able to communicate with their families?

I will say the arguments that people in the jail are victims was a bit much to take.

I'd like to point out that many people in jail haven't been, and won't be convicted of a crime. So, yes, any way you think about it, they are victims.
Last edited by ShaneDog on Wed Sep 29, 2004 12:09 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby burstingsun » Wed Sep 29, 2004 11:01 am

Andy Olsen wrote:I will say the arguments that people in the jail are victims was a bit much to take.

Thanks for your explanation as to how you voted. I appreciate your efforts on the phone cards to try to alleviate some of the burden. However, I would like to remind you that some people in jail are, at least to some extent, victims as they have not necessarily been proven guilty.

Additionally, the real victims are the inmates' families who end up flitting the bill for these calls in most instances. Many of these families have had their phone service shut off as a result of their inability to pay the bills. Imagine telling your 6 year old child that he or she can no longer speak to mom or dad because the calls are too expensive.

Regarding your comment that the alternate contract only reduced the fee by $1.25 per call, I think this is a significant difference for some. Imagine being a mother receiving W2 or SSI ($624 to $673/month for W2 or slightly less (often around $500) in many SSI cases). Your child's father calls three times each week for one month. Assuming 5 weeks per month, that's 15 calls for a total cost difference of $18.75. This works out to be 2-4% of your income for the month that could have been saved with the alternate contract. I realize This may be a drop in the bucket for most of us, but when your income is so limited, it is a lot. That $18.75 will buy a couple packages of diapers or a lot of ramen noodles.

The fact that the rates did not increase from the previous contract is hardly justification for anything. My mom always told me that two wrongs don't make a right. Just because we've been raping the wallets of inmate's families for years doesn't mean we should continue to do so.

No matter how you argue it, we are taking this money from many of the county's poorest residents. We may even be assuming that some innocent people should be treated as if guilty. I'm ashamed to think that this is the price we pay for lower property taxes, etc. There are better solutions out there.

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Postby Mike S. » Wed Oct 06, 2004 9:39 pm

I agree with burstings. I just wanted to add a comment specifically on

the cost of calls would reduce by only $1.25 per call (the connect charge). The cost to the County in lost revenue would have been $240,000. So, it would cost a whole lot of revenue for little benefit to the affected parties.

If the contracts provide equal profit to ICsolutions for what sounds like equivalent work, they must expect about 192,000 calls - about 520 a day, which seems plausible. Assuming this, the statement above very explicitly states that the exact same $240,000 is worth more in the hands of the County Government than it is in the hands of the relatives of people accused of a crime.

Also, it appears they have no problem acting on this perception. Now, if someone suggested that a billionaire's money would be better spent by the government, people would call him a Communist. But say that some poor bastard whose kid just got arrested has money better spent by the government, and that seems to fly. Funny how expropriation only ever seems politically correct when it's the rich doing it to the poor, never the other way around!

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Postby Wesmon » Wed Oct 06, 2004 10:24 pm

As someone who has been in DCJ, I can say from experience that many inmates can not make calls after their first couple days in jail specifically because their families and friends have their phone bills run up sky high so fast with the current rates.

Beyond this is the problem that many people only use cell phones now, and you can't collect call cells, leaving even more people out from using the phones.

Dane county has been using their justice system as a means to generate revenue in many areas for as long as I can remember, nothing new here. Another example is the Huber program where inmates pay somewhere around 500$ a month now for the privledge of being able to leave DCJ to work. Arresting people and locking them up is big business in Madison.

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