SAN FRANCISCO—The city of San Francisco will stop charging inmates for phone calls and will no longer be marking up the cost of items in their jail stores.
Mayor London Breed and Sheriff Vicki Hennessy are behind the change. The proposal was included in Mayor Breed’s budget for the year and will begin to go into effect after the fiscal year starts on July 1.
Breed stated in a news release that, “This change is an important continuation of our efforts to reform fines and fees that disproportionately impact low-income people and communities of color.”
According to the Prison Policy Initiative, a non-profit, non-partisan think tank that conducts research about mass criminalization, the average price of a 15-minute phone call from a San Francisco jail is $5.70. The average markup for items in the commissary in a San Francisco jail is 43 percent.
California state law currently allows each county to charge inmates premium prices for both calls and items available in each jail’s commissary. The funds from San Francisco jail calls currently go towards staff members nonprofit and prisoners legal services.
The city is following in the footsteps of New York which made phone calls free last year and saw an increase of 33 percent in calls. When the change is implemented, it would make San Francisco the first city in the country to stop receiving revenue from prisoners and their families.