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San Mateo County Sues California Jail Phone Service Providers

San Mateo County Sues California Jail
Phone Service Providers

On July 7, 2002, the county of San Mateo, California, brought suit against Pacific Bell and AT&T alleging they cheated the county out of millions of dollars earmarked for a fund supporting prisoner services. The suit, filed in San Mateo Superior Court, seeks restitution of $2.4 million, plus interest.

San Mateo contracted with Pacific Bell and AT&T in 1993 to provide phone service to prisoners in eight separate county jail facilities. Pacific Bell and AT&T were to provide local and long distance service, respectively. Under terms of the contract, the companies were to pay up to 41% of gross revenues to the Inmate Welfare Fund which helps pay for a variety of prisoner services such as substance abuse and educational programs, law libraries, mental health services and recreation equipment.

The county assumed these payments were being paid in full until a 1999 audit revealed problems with the numbers. According to the suit, the audit estimated that Pacific Bell had been underpaying by as much as $600,000 per year. The suit further alleges that Pacific Bell purposely falsified and hid the real numbers, which also affected AT&T's payments since they were based on Pacific Bell's reported revenue.

After Pacific Bell accused the county of using bad data another audit was ordered. The second audit also found that the company had underpayed the county, but by the more modest amount of $411,000 per year, according to the suit.

Evercom Systems of Texas replaced both companies this year as the county's jail phone service provider.

Source: San Francisco Chronicle

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