Mixed Fortunes for San Luis Obispo County Jail Inmates after Slashing of Calling Charges

Inmates at San Luis Obispo County Jail and their families and friends can now be connected through calling services at a much lower charge than they have been used to. However, the new rules have their downside as well. The county will no longer afford to finance programs that it considers important to the welfare of the inmates as well those mandated by the state.

The Impact of Inevitable Losses

With an annual loss of about $162, 000, the county jail is facing difficulties in providing such services as educational courses, legal resources, vocational programs, counseling, treatment for drug abuse inmate patients and even transportation. Only two options remain: the inmates have to be content with the few services the jail can afford or more funding have to be sought from Board of Supervisors.

Although the regulations have been considered for a long time, their full impact on the jail programs will just begin to be felt. While the county has been earning a 56 percent commission from the gross income obtained from the calling service, it has now been dropped to 17 percent. This translates to $0.05 per minute of the $0.30 a minute flat rate charged for the inmate call services.

Crippled Programs

The county runs the Inmate Welfare Fund with the use of a big chunk of revenue obtained from the calling service. According to Tony Cipolla, the sheriff’s spokesperson, commissions from the phone charges accounted for approximately 67 percent of the fund in the 2015-2016 fiscal year. Therefore, it is about $ 211,000 of the $315,000 needed to operate the fund.

Although the reduced calling rates are a great relief to inmates and their loved ones, they will have a great impact on their welfare as the programs under which most of the services are offered will be crippled. The only remaining source of income for the jail is the commissary which brings in around $104,000 – an equivalent of 33 percent of the amount required to run the fund. The money is earned from sale of personal items to inmates. They include stationery, hygiene necessities and snacks.