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Phone Profits 'Benefit' Jail Detainees

The Stanislaus County (CA) Jail has a contract with Correctional Communication Corp., a private telephone company that caters to the Prison-Industrial Complex, to provide phone service to the jail's 1,100 captive consumers. There are more than 100 phones in the county's jails. More than 25,000 collect calls to detainees' friends and families were placed from these phones in 1997.

"They are in use 24 hours a day," assistant sheriff Zane Clark told the Modesto Bee . "Everybody's always using them. That's good because it keeps them in contact with the outside world."

It's also good, very good, for Stanislaus County, which receives a 42 percent commission (i.e. kickback) from the grossly inflated charges levied on the calls. The county reaped almost $500,000 from the telephone kickbacks in FY 1996-97.

The county can't do anything it wants with the money, though. State law requires that it be kept in a separate fund and used for "inmate welfare". During FY 96-97 the county expended $155,000 from the fund for such things as books and magazines, sports and recreational equipment, televisions, computers and other equipment, and funding for Friends Outside, a nonprofit group that helps prisoners and their families.

Even after those expenditures, there remains a $1.1 million cash balance in the fund. So Clark, who oversees the county's jail operations, came up with a rather creative plan for how to dispose of the large cash windfall. He says the money will be used to develop an equestrian center near the jail.

In keeping with the law that the money "benefit" jail detainees, Clark says that the county expects to put jail inmates to work at the equestrian center. They'll benefit, Clark explains, by having the opportunity to get out of their jail cells to build corrals, groom horses, and clean stables.
Modesto Bee

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