San Francisco is making it a little less terrible to spend time in jail.
On June 12, Mayor London Breed and Sheriff Vicki Hennessy announced plans to stop charging inmates to make phone calls from jail and to eliminate the county’s markups on items sold at the jail commissary.
“This change is an important continuation of our efforts to reform fines and fees that disproportionately impact low-income people and communities of color,” Breed said in a news release.
While other jurisdictions around the country are working on similar changes, the new policy will make San Francisco the country’s first to “stop generating revenue from incarcerated people and their families,” according to the mayor’s office.
The Sheriff’s Department has been working with the mayor’s office, the city treasurer’s office and criminal justice advocates to find ways to “remove financial barriers to reentry for people in jail,” Hennessy said.
According to the mayor’s office, studies show that inmates who keep in touch with their families are less likely to commit other crimes once they’re released.
The average price for a 15-minute call from jail in San Francisco is $2.10 while the average price statewide is $5.70, according to Prison Policy Initiative, a nonprofit research organization dedicated to ending “mass incarceration.”
The average markup on items sold in the commissary is 43 percent in San Francisco.
San Francisco Public Defender Manohar Raju praised the move, calling the fees “predatory,” and said they disproportionately affect poor people.
“Reducing the financial burdens of phone fees for incarcerated people will allow them to stay better connected to their loved ones and gives them a better chance going forward after their release,” Raju said.
The new policies will begin to go into effect on July 1, according to the mayor’s office.