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San Francisco Ends Phone Call Fees In County Jails

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This past Tuesday, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted to end phone call fees in San Francisco County jails.

Advocacy groups and the families of incarcerated people have long called for the end of phone call fees in prison and jails across the country. And now — with COVID-19, phone calls have become a particularly important way for incarcerated people to stay connected to their family and the outside world.

Phone calls cost 15 cents per minute. Commissary products — like soap and snacks — were also sold at a mark-up. All the profits went toward a fund for rehabilitation and reentry services for people coming out of jail.

But last year, Mayor London Breed decided that incarcerated people and their families shouldn’t be the ones that have to pay for these services--she proposed that funds should come from elsewhere in the budget.

And earlier this week the SF Board of Supervisors made it official. The Supervisors passed an ordinance making phone calls free. They also voted to stop marking up the cost of commissary products. The city says, this will lift some of the financial burden off of families of incarcerated people--particularly the low income families of color disproportionately affected by these costs.