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Inmate calls to fund inmate perks

Ben Godar

With the expected consent of the City Council on Tuesday night, the

Burbank Police will begin using money from jail inmate phone calls to

fund items to improve the welfare of inmates.


The city entered into an agreement with SBC in June 1999 to

provide phone service through which inmates can make collect calls.

They are allowed to make calls at the discretion of jailers during

normal business hours, police said. The city earns a small return


from each call made, and as of January had made a total of $59,218.

California Penal Code allows the city to collect such a fee, but

requires the money be used for the benefit, education and welfare of

inmates. Police were expected to receive approval Tuesday to use

$5,000 to purchase toothbrushes, newspapers and other items. While

the money must be used to buy items for inmates, it cannot be used to

fund their basic needs, spokesman Sgt. Bruce Speirs said.

“We can’t use it to pay the electric bill or buy their food --


those are things we’re required to do,” he said.

Police have provided items beyond what is required in the past,

Speirs said. The program simply provides police an alternate way to

fund those provisions.

“Now that we have some revenue available, it lets us do that

without burdening the taxpayers,” he said.

Mayor David Laurell said the program was a good, creative way for

the department to generate revenue.


“If inmates are desirous to make calls, there should be a price

paid,” he said. “We’re living in days when a little extra revenue can

go a long way.”

Toothbrushes are provided because they are considered an important

item for inmate health, Speirs said. Providing things like newspapers

and limited television access distracts prisoners and helps keep the

peace, he said.

“We find that a happy prisoner is a well-behaved prisoner,” he

said. “We certainly don’t want any dissention in the jail.”

The contract with SBC expires in December, but Speirs said the

department plans to negotiate a new contract and keep the program