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Clallam sheriff says new rule on inmate phone service could impact local jail

January 16th, 2014 - 6:30am

(Port Angeles) – Clallam County's sheriff is concerned about a Federal Communications Commission ruling on regulating jail phone calls.

The FCC is moving to limit the amount of money jail operators can charge for interstate phone calls. The proposal would cap rates at $0.21 per minute for debit calls and $0.25 per minute for collect calls.

Sheriff Bill Benedict says the FCC's ruling could ultimately effect his jail budget locally. The county contracts with a third party for the phone hardware and services. In turn, the county charges inmates $1.89 for any call that gets connected. All the calls are collect.

Benedict says it is far below the rates the FCC considers onerous, but he fears eventually it could be impact the county's service provider and ultimately an income stream for the jail.

“The county gets a 42% commission on the fees collected for the phone calls,” said Benedict. “It amounts to about $25,000 a year that is used for replacing jail equipment and inmate services.”

Benedict says that money means some jail amenities aren't coming out of tax-payer's pockets.

“For example, we have TV's in the jail,” said Benedict. “This money goes to pay for that as well as haircuts and other indigent services. None of the commission money goes into the general fund.”

The FCC's new rule to cap fees for phones in jails was floated back in September. It was approved in December and is expected to be put in place next month.

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