Free phone cards for troops or inmates?

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Free phone cards for troops or inmates?

Poll ended at Wed Jan 05, 2005 12:47 am

Inmates
18
69%
Troops
8
31%
 
Total votes: 26

Stu Levitan
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Free phone cards for troops or inmates?

Postby Stu Levitan » Sun Dec 26, 2004 12:47 am

Inmates' phone cards at issue
12/25/04
Barry Adams Wisconsin State Journal

Dave Wiganowsky doesn't think poor inmates of the Dane County Jail should be rewarded.

But Andy Olsen sees Wiganowsky's plan to give phone cards intended for inmates to U.S. troops as pitting the "poorest of the poor" against the military.

"I thought it would be a good idea," said Wiganowsky, a Dane County supervisor from rural Sun Prairie.

"There's no reason to pit inmates against troops," said Olsen, a supervisor from Madison's East Side.

As part of a three-year, $3.6 million contract to provide phone service to jail inmates, San Jose, Calif.,-based Inmate Calling Solutions is giving the county $100,000 in phone cards each year.

The majority of those cards would be sold to inmates so they can make direct calls - rather than more expensive collect calls - to family and friends.

But under a plan that was initially turned down by the County Board in September, then included in Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk's budget and approved by the board, $25,000 of the cards would be offered free each year to indigent inmates.

Olsen likes that idea, but Wiganowsky believes the phone cards should go to Dane County residents who are in the military and stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"It's not being taken away because (inmates) have never in the past had it," Wiganowsky said. "This would be the first year (the board) would reward them for being in jail."

Wiganowsky's proposal to send the cards to the troops has been referred to three committees, where no action has been taken. The committees have 60 days from the time it was referred to act on the proposal. If nothing is done by mid-February, the County Board would likely act on the measure March 3.

"They're refusing to put it on the agenda. It's kind of in limbo," said Wiganowsky, a conservative, of the liberal chairpersons of the committees. "It's in purgatory."

Olsen questions Wiganowsky's sincerity, saying that if he wanted the measure considered, he would provide more specifics and communicate with the committee heads.

He also questions whether U.S. troops need such help because they get money for phone calls each month.

According to an August report to Congress by the Department of Defense, more than 50,000 free calls are made each day by troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and "an equal number" of calls are paid for by troops who get a benefit of $40 a month or 120 calling minutes on phone cards.

"I certainly want to help them talk to their families, but what are the needs the troops have?" Olsen said.

Wisconsin Army and Air National Guard spokesman Lt. Col. Tim Donovan said he was unfamiliar with finances related to phone calls, but said troops do get separation and hostile-fire-zone pay.

He knows of some soldiers who call home twice a week, but others are limited, not necessarily by finances, but logistics. Depending on where they are stationed, phones may be limited and long lines common.

"They don't have hours to spend calling on the telephone. They're working long hours," Donovan said.

For Wiganowsky's proposal to pass, three quarters of the County Board's 37 members would have to vote in favor of the measure.

About 25 percent of the jail's population is indigent. Phone calls cost $4.25 to connect and 10 cents per minute, meaning a 30-minute phone call costs $7.25, Olsen said.

"We all support the troops and I hope there's no doubt about that," Olsen said. "I'm just having a conceptual problem of taking money from the county's poorest people."
(end text)

Discuss.

Dulouz
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Postby Dulouz » Sun Dec 26, 2004 1:36 am

I have a brother serving over there, I can contact him through email, im and several other methods. I am sure that he would prefer that we not screw the families of inmates in the name of Iraq.

Donald
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Postby Donald » Sun Dec 26, 2004 12:18 pm

I vote for "none of the above." There's no reason for government to give out "free" phone cards to anyone.

ShaneDog
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Postby ShaneDog » Sun Dec 26, 2004 3:04 pm

Why doesn't the jail just sign up with a VOIP provider that offers free local and long distance? That way everyone at the jail can make free calls, problem solved.

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Postby Mike S. » Sun Dec 26, 2004 5:23 pm

This topic arose before on the County scams inmates' families on phone calls thread. At that time I was among those excoriating the plan, even while they had the "free" card as a supposed compromise - apparently just a lie.

The gist: IT'S NOT a free phone card because the inmates are actually used as a revenue source. The people in the jail, including people who have not been convicted of anything but a lack of bail money, are expected to produce a net $1.2 million in tax revenue for the county. These are the poorest people, in the most desperate straits, who according to the bullshit American quasi-religious patriot babble are supposed to be "innocent until proven guilty", who in reality are getting socked for special extra taxes. And as a sop they were supposed to get a couple of free calls before the tax kicks in, in case they had some really desperate communication they could make in the first call or two (keep in mind that the entire "$25,000 worth of phone cards" is equal to less than 6000 10-minute phone calls for all recipients all year)

We need some new Latin name for the logical fallacy where you pick somebody's pocket, then moralize that it would be wrong to give the money back to the original owner when there's someone you think is more deserving.

P.S. The obvious reason why they won't use VoIP is what Andy Olsen said in the previous thread: "If we dropped the entire system now it would cost the county, at least, $1 million in lost revenues. We�d have to make that up somewhere." Never mind that it's out-and-out robbery - once someone's pegged as a victim, why stop abusing him?

Don Eggert
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Re: Free phone cards for troops or inmates?

Postby Don Eggert » Mon Dec 27, 2004 1:04 am

I'd like to make several points regarding the WSJ article, and the situation in general.

First, I'm the one responsible for the delay on this resolution. I asked the committee chairs to withhold action, until I could do the research that Supervisor Wiganowsky obviously did not do. It is unfair to blame "liberal committee chairs" -- I take full responsibility.

The WSJ reporter, unlike the reporter for the Cap Times and the two TV stations which have covered this, made no attempt to contact me. If he had, I would have told him that and the same things I told the others:

1) Veterans issues should not be politicized. If this proposal has merit, it will stand on its own. As a veteran, I am upset and disappointed that the author of this resolution is manipulating citizen sympathy for our soldiers to change county policy in other areas. He couldn't win the jail phone card issue on his own, so he's exploiting the situation of our mobilized soldiers for his own political gain.
He claims that he isn't politicizing the issue. That's garbage. He is, by definition and by default. As soon as you mention "inmates" and "veterans" in the same breath, it's cynical manipulation and exploitation. Period.
The poll at the top of this thread is simply a false choice that Dane County citizens should not be getting asked to make. Let's not confuse and combine the issues just because one supervisor did.

2) The author of this resolution has not established a need for the phone cards in question, nor has he established that such a need, if it exists, is a County problem requiring County funding. Note the comment below from LTC Donovan, the WI National Guard Public Affairs Officer. In many cases, the lack of phone calls is due to it's a lack of time. All the phone cards in the world don't change the fact that they're fighting a war, and mission dictates.

3) The author of this resolution has not established a means for distributing phone cards to soldiers, other than suggesting that the County Veterans Service Office will handle it. The director of that office is short handed (his staff of six is down to four due to a transfer and retirement in January), and does not have the ability to handle this project.

4) There are numerous other ways for concerned citizens to contribute directly to troop support efforts, including phone card programs (the VFW, military exchange system, and Department of Defense have all established donation programs).

There's a better way to deal with veterans issues. Twice in the last three years, I've restored funding for the County Veterans Service Office by offering amendments to the budget during the annual budget process. Our 2005 budget just passed a few weeks ago, and there were no amendments offered by Supervisor Wiganowsky on the floor, for phone cards or anything else. In 2003, I sponsored abipartisan ordinance amendment that improved pay and leave benefits for Dane County employees who serve in the reserve components -- it passed with no debate and was co-sponsored by supervisors from across the entire spectrum of the Board. I didn't make a big deal about it. I did those things, and did them quietly, because they were the right thing to do, not to score political points.

I am positive that many of the conservatives who signed on to Supervisor Wiganowsky's resolution did so because they thought they were helping soldiers. I appreciate their concern. When I come up with a better solution, I hope they'll join me in doing the right thing for the right reasons.

WSJ wrote:"They're refusing to put it on the agenda. It's kind of in limbo," said Wiganowsky, a conservative, of the liberal chairpersons of the committees. "It's in purgatory."
...
Olsen questions Wiganowsky's sincerity, saying that if he wanted the measure considered, he would provide more specifics and communicate with the committee heads.
...
Wisconsin Army and Air National Guard spokesman Lt. Col. Tim Donovan said he was unfamiliar with finances related to phone calls, but said troops do get separation and hostile-fire-zone pay.
He knows of some soldiers who call home twice a week, but others are limited, not necessarily by finances, but logistics. Depending on where they are stationed, phones may be limited and long lines common.
"They don't have hours to spend calling on the telephone. They're working long hours," Donovan said.

zebra muscle
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Re: Free phone cards for troops or inmates?

Postby zebra muscle » Mon Dec 27, 2004 1:41 am

Post edited by author because author was out of line.




thanks.



Don Eggert wrote:I'd like to make several points regarding the WSJ article, and the situation in general.

First, I'm the one responsible for the delay on this resolution. I asked the committee chairs to withhold action, until I could do the research that Supervisor Wiganowsky obviously did not do. It is unfair to blame "liberal committee chairs" -- I take full responsibility.

The WSJ reporter, unlike the reporter for the Cap Times and the two TV stations which have covered this, made no attempt to contact me. If he had, I would have told him that and the same things I told the others:

1) Veterans issues should not be politicized. If this proposal has merit, it will stand on its own. As a veteran, I am upset and disappointed that the author of this resolution is manipulating citizen sympathy for our soldiers to change county policy in other areas. He couldn't win the jail phone card issue on his own, so he's exploiting the situation of our mobilized soldiers for his own political gain.
He claims that he isn't politicizing the issue. That's garbage. He is, by definition and by default. As soon as you mention "inmates" and "veterans" in the same breath, it's cynical manipulation and exploitation. Period.
The poll at the top of this thread is simply a false choice that Dane County citizens should not be getting asked to make. Let's not confuse and combine the issues just because one supervisor did.

2) The author of this resolution has not established a need for the phone cards in question, nor has he established that such a need, if it exists, is a County problem requiring County funding. Note the comment below from LTC Donovan, the WI National Guard Public Affairs Officer. In many cases, the lack of phone calls is due to it's a lack of time. All the phone cards in the world don't change the fact that they're fighting a war, and mission dictates.

3) The author of this resolution has not established a means for distributing phone cards to soldiers, other than suggesting that the County Veterans Service Office will handle it. The director of that office is short handed (his staff of six is down to four due to a transfer and retirement in January), and does not have the ability to handle this project.

4) There are numerous other ways for concerned citizens to contribute directly to troop support efforts, including phone card programs (the VFW, military exchange system, and Department of Defense have all established donation programs).

There's a better way to deal with veterans issues. Twice in the last three years, I've restored funding for the County Veterans Service Office by offering amendments to the budget during the annual budget process. Our 2005 budget just passed a few weeks ago, and there were no amendments offered by Supervisor Wiganowsky on the floor, for phone cards or anything else. In 2003, I sponsored abipartisan ordinance amendment that improved pay and leave benefits for Dane County employees who serve in the reserve components -- it passed with no debate and was co-sponsored by supervisors from across the entire spectrum of the Board. I didn't make a big deal about it. I did those things, and did them quietly, because they were the right thing to do, not to score political points.

I am positive that many of the conservatives who signed on to Supervisor Wiganowsky's resolution did so because they thought they were helping soldiers. I appreciate their concern. When I come up with a better solution, I hope they'll join me in doing the right thing for the right reasons.

WSJ wrote:"They're refusing to put it on the agenda. It's kind of in limbo," said Wiganowsky, a conservative, of the liberal chairpersons of the committees. "It's in purgatory."
...
Olsen questions Wiganowsky's sincerity, saying that if he wanted the measure considered, he would provide more specifics and communicate with the committee heads.
...
Wisconsin Army and Air National Guard spokesman Lt. Col. Tim Donovan said he was unfamiliar with finances related to phone calls, but said troops do get separation and hostile-fire-zone pay.
He knows of some soldiers who call home twice a week, but others are limited, not necessarily by finances, but logistics. Depending on where they are stationed, phones may be limited and long lines common.
"They don't have hours to spend calling on the telephone. They're working long hours," Donovan said.
Last edited by zebra muscle on Mon Dec 27, 2004 9:35 am, edited 1 time in total.

ShaneDog
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Postby ShaneDog » Mon Dec 27, 2004 8:09 am

I guess I'm still wondering why the county is making inmates pay for telephone calls that could be free if they were using VOIP telephone service.

Nick Berigan
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Re: Free phone cards for troops or inmates?

Postby Nick Berigan » Mon Dec 27, 2004 8:20 am

zebra muscle wrote:... Have you ever been deployed ...


All posters are hereby required to state their selective service status before stating any opinions.

For myself, I got 364 in the first draft lottery in '70 or '71or whenever it was.



How ridiculous.

ShaneDog
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Postby ShaneDog » Mon Dec 27, 2004 9:17 am

I'm all for supporting the troops but I don't think that sending them phone cards is going to help. Most phone cards that can be used here can't be used in other countries, much less a country with a totally different phone system like Iraq. So I don't see how sending them american phone card is going to be of any help. If we want to send them something we should probably send them body armor and other stuff that they really need.

zebra muscle
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Re: Free phone cards for troops or inmates?

Postby zebra muscle » Mon Dec 27, 2004 9:34 am

Actually, you have a point. That post was rather nasty, and I apologize for it.

What I meant to express was my disdain for elected officials who post with the sole purpose of massaging their egos. Not all do, but some are definately guilty of doing just that.




Nick Berigan wrote:
zebra muscle wrote:... Have you ever been deployed ...


All posters are hereby required to state their selective service status before stating any opinions.

For myself, I got 364 in the first draft lottery in '70 or '71or whenever it was.



How ridiculous.

Andy Olsen
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Postby Andy Olsen » Mon Dec 27, 2004 11:58 am

Hello, Dailypage denizens!

It would be interesting to hear the views of Forons on this subject. Every day for more than a week leading up to Christmas, I was contacted by the media regarding this story. Dave Wiganowsky has been pushing it hard to the news media, even if he is not talking to the other Supervisors involved to try and pass it. By his actions he seems more interested in having a conflict over supporting the troops rather than actualy accomplishing anything.

I agree with Don Eggert that the troops should not be used as political props to divide the Board and the public. Sadly, that is occurring, as several hateful emails I have received indicate. To his credit Sup Eggert has worked both sides of the aisle in the past to build unity for supporting the troops.

Sup Don Eggert and I are working on the proposal and looking into the merits. It's got a lot of problems and, as drafted, does not do what it pretends to do. Therefore, it does not seem like a serious proposal. Given the grandstanding we've seen in this thing, it looks more like political mischief.

Here are some broader issues:
The Bush Administration insists that troops have access to phones. But, they also told us troops had enough body and vehicle armor. What's the truth here? Is the Bush Department of Defense telling us the truth? Or, are the programs to fund phone calls for the troops underfunded? Is the real problem here that Dane County is not funding the war effort or that George Bush is, once again, failing to live up to his responsibilities?
Report To Congress Department Of Defense And American Red Cross Assessment Of Armed Forces Emergency Services wrote:Telecommunications. As Theater conditions permit, the Department has increased access to e- mail, telephone, calling centers, and satellite phone services provided through the Defense Switched Network (DSN), Health, Morale and Welfare (HMW) calls and unofficial telecommunications furnished by the Armed Services exchanges. On average, over 50,000 HMW calls are made each day using DSN at no cost to the caller. An equal number of calls are made over ââ?¬Å?unofficial linesââ?¬? where members pay for the calls. Of note, the Fiscal Year 2004 NDAA requires that prepaid phone cards, or an equivalent telecommunications benefit be provided at no cost to those serving in OEF/OIF. The benefit cannot exceed $40 a month or 120 calling minutes. The Secretary of Defense can accept donations to defray costs, which have currently approached $1 million a month.
http://www.defenselink.mil/news/Aug2004 ... 804RCR.pdf


Another broader question: since when do local governments have a responsibility to fund the war effort? Isn't this a responsibility of the federal government? (Question for Forons: how many obligations has George Bush created and then abandoned?)

At a time when our nation is giving massive tax breaks to the wealthy, why would we tax the poorest in our County to fund war -related activities? Whatever happened to shared sacrifice?

Reminder: When this matter does reach the County Board, the public can come to the meeting and address the Board to speak to the issue. You're welcome!

Here are some other stories:
The Capital Times, Plan To Switch Free Phone Cards Called Ploy
Channel 27 story, featuring a little sister of a soldier.
Veterans Want Inmates' Calling Cards Sent To Soldiers

Andy Olsen
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Postby Andy Olsen » Mon Dec 27, 2004 12:02 pm

Donald wrote:I vote for "none of the above." There's no reason for government to give out "free" phone cards to anyone.

Donald:

To clarify; the $25,000 is set aside from the more than $1.2 million the County will receive in revenues from jail phone calls. The purpose of the set-aside is to reduce the hardships to the poorest inmates caused by high phone charges. It can help people get back on their feet and avoid becoming re-offenders (if they, indeed, did first offend) when they are released.

Does that affect your view of the program?

zebra muscle
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Postby zebra muscle » Mon Dec 27, 2004 12:28 pm

Why did my skin crawl when I read the below statement?


Andy Olsen wrote:Hello, Dailypage denizens!

snoqueen
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Postby snoqueen » Mon Dec 27, 2004 12:45 pm

ShaneDog wrote:I guess I'm still wondering why the county is making inmates pay for telephone calls that could be free if they were using VOIP telephone service.


Does VOIP require people on both ends of the call to be using a computer or can it link directly with the regular phone network? I have no problem with the callers on the "free" end being required to go to the library to speak with their jailed family members over VOIP -- I'm just not clear on the technology. ShaneDog's got some good ideas here -- we aren't limited to phone card technology and need to quit thinking like it's 1990.

A charity could donate Internet accounts to the jail, and volunteers or people doing community service could set the computers up for VOIP. Milking indigent prisoners' families for money on this one should be politically untenable if a nearly-free solution can be improvised.

Those prisoners who can write could also use instant messaging and email. If it's good enough for high school students and soldiers in Iraq it should be good enough for people in jail. Instant messaging requires almost nothing in terms of computers -- it's the tiniest little app there is and you can run it on any old junk hardware, so the nickel-and-dime conservatives have nothing to whine about. I know there are prisoners who will complain they can't "reach out and touch" their loved ones using a keyboard, but it's a fair compromise where everyone gives an inch.


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