Yesterday Bay Area Legal Aid joined nine other legal services, prisoner support, and social justice organizations in urging the Alameda County Board of Supervisors to eliminate the inflated cost of phone and video communications between people incarcerated at Santa Rita Jail (SRJ) and their families. Families and communities most affected by incarceration are already among those most economically vulnerable and most harmed by systemic racism. Imposing inflated costs unduly punishes families already struggling with the absence of a loved one and the many financial burdens of incarceration. This punishment extends to those not found guilty of any crime and being held at SRJ awaiting trial, further compounding its basic inequity.
The benefits of regular contact between incarcerated people and their loved ones are well-established. Regular communication improves outcomes for successful re-entry and reintegration into family and community following incarceration. In fact, Global Tel*Link (GTL), the company with which Alameda County contracts to provide telecommunication services in SRJ, approvingly cites some of the data making this case in their own marketing materials. Conditions that create barriers to this communication harm not only incarcerated individuals and their families, but the broader community.
The reality for many families with a loved one incarcerated at SRJ involves second jobs to pay communications bills, and impossible choices between rent, food, and contact with their incarcerated loved one. It also involves dropped calls, poor voice quality, and outdated communications infrastructure. BayLegal and our allied organizations urge Alameda County to take steps to eliminate these excessive costs and ensure a functioning, accessible communications system for those incarcerated at SRJ.
Co-signatory organizations are:
ACLU of Northern California
Asian Prisoner Support Committee
Bay Area Community Services
Communities United for Restorative Youth Justice
East Bay Community Law Center
Ella Baker Center for Human Rights
Homeless Action Center
Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area
National Lawyers Guild San Francisco