Sheriff Mirkarimi alleviates price gouging jail inmates for phone calls 

click to enlarge Jail phone
  • Mike Koozmin/The S.F. Examiner file photo
  • Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi says cheaper calls help inmates and families stay in touch.
After facing criticism last year over the high cost of making a phone call from County Jail, Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi presented new rates Thursday.

Mirkarimi had inherited a telephone service contract when he came into office in 2012 that was reflective of the high calling costs in jails throughout the country.

Members of the Board of Supervisors were critical of these costs in a contract extension vote last year, during which time Mirkarimi promised to lower rates.

On Thursday, he presented to the board’s Government Audit and Oversight Committee those rates under an amended contract with service provider Global Tel*Link.

“We want people to preserve ties with the family and loved ones when they are incarcerated,” Mirkarimi said. It is estimated that the cheaper phone calls will result in inmates making 20 percent more calls.

Rates vary based on local, state or national calls and call types, such as pre-paid or collect. One of the largest cost reductions is for a 15-minute collect and pre-paid long-distance call within the state, which today costs $13.35. Under the proposed new rates, it would drop to $4.05. Local collect calls currently come with a $2.80 surcharge and a per-minute rate of $0.11. That would become $1.25 and $0.10, respectively.

Supervisor London Breed said inmates should not have to pay for local calls. The sheriff said he’s working on that.

“We need to reform and rein in this industry,” Mirkarimi said.

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