Los Angeles County jail inmates will have to wait until next week to find out if they’ll be charged less to make phone calls from behind bars.
The Board of Supervisors was scheduled to vote Wednesday on a plan to cut fees to comply with an order issued by the Federal Communications Commission in 2015. That order was upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit this March and is set to take effect June 20.
At Supervisor Sheila Kuehl’s request, the board postponed the vote until next week. Officials don’t want to make too much of a cut in about $15 million of county phone revenues from those calls.
As detailed in a letter by Sheriff Jim McDonnell to the board, the changes include eliminating a $1.25 connection fee for collect calls and a $1.05 connection fee for debit card calls. Ancillary fees charges ranging from $1 to $5.95 for paper billing, account set-up and other services would also be dropped.
The contract changes would increase the per minute charge from 15 cents after the initial one-minute connection charge to a flat 21-25 cents per minute, depending on the payment method and call location.
The county’s share of revenues — set as the greater of a guaranteed $15 million annually or 67.5 of call revenues billed — does not include ancillary services.
The county has collected the minimum amount each year for the last three years from Public Communications Services, Inc., the telecommmunications provider, according to a Sheriff’s Department official.
That money goes to the Inmate Welfare Fund, which is used for “various educational and recreational programs and projects that benefit the inmates,” according to board documents.
The Probation Department receives an additional $59,000 under the guarantee.
The Sheriff’s Department has also asked for the authority to terminate the agreement with PCS, if necessary, as it prepares to solicit proposals from other telecom companies.
The board is expected to address the issue next week.
PCS is a subsidiary of Global Tel-Link. GTL serves approximately 2,400 facilities and 1.3 million inmates in 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, including eight of the largest 10 state corrections departments, 32 of the largest city- and county-run jails, and the Federal Bureau of Prisons, according to the company’s website.
–City News Service