Sponsorship of SB 555: Children’s Defense Fund-CA, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, Freedom for Immigrants, Friends Committee on Legislation of California, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, San Francisco Financial Justice Project, San Francisco Public Defender, TransLatin@ Coalition, Time for Change Foundation, Young Women’s Freedom Center.
Authored by Senator Holly Mitchell, Young Women’s Freedom Center has co-sponsored the bill since its inception. We have provided leadership in the coalition of organizations that have helped ensure that SB 555 gained momentum and advanced through to its second year of legislative cycles.
Here is what you can do to help make sure SB 555 becomes law:
1. READ THIS
SB 555: The Jail FACTS Act
The Jail FACTS Act, authored by State Senator Holly Mitchell, will reduce the heavy financial burden placed on the families and support systems of incarcerated individuals. SB 555 aims to eliminate the exorbitant costs of communications (including phone calls, video visitation and electronic communications) regulate the prices for goods sold inside county jails (hygiene products and food), and require that profits made from these services are reinvested to support people incarcerated in California County Jails, as well as their transition back into their communities. Read the bill here.
Community Facts Sheet:
SB 555 (By Senator Holly Mitchell)
Jail FACTS (Fair Access for Connections To Support) Act
The goal of Senate Bill 555, by Senator Holly Mitchell, is to lower how much it costs to keep in touch with people in jail and juvenile lock-ups using phones, video calls, and other services. It also lowers the cost of commissary items.
Change is needed. Too many families can’t afford to talk with their loved ones or buy basic commissary items to support them while incarcerated. Many go into debt. At the same time, Sheriff Departments and companies are allowed to make profits any time people use the phone or buy or buy commissary items. This system is unjust and takes money away from incarcerated people and their families and puts it in the pockets of private companies and sheriffs.
SB 555 would:
● Reduce Rates: Lower rates charged for telephone and other communication servicesbetween people held in county jails and juvenile facilities and loved ones on the outside. This will help to support strong relationships between incarcerated people and their loved ones, which promotes successful reentry and reduces recidivism.
● Reduce Commissary Prices: Eliminate price mark-ups and lowers cost of basic necessities sold in jail stores.
● End Commissions: Make it so sheriffs cannot make profits from these services anymore.
● Incarcerated People’s Welfare Fund: Changes the name of the “Inmate Welfare Fund” and requires that these funds to be used solely for the benefit, education, and welfare of incarcerated people.
2. CHECK OUT NEW RESEARCH ON THE HIGH #PRICEOFJUSTICE
The price of justice varies by geography. We conducted research into commissary profit rates across California and phone call rates from California county juvenile facilities, and the results were shocking.
Commissary: Incarcerated people often purchase items sold in jail stores, called commissaries. Incarcerated people pay for key necessities, such as stationary, stamps, soup, coffee, rice and beans, and hygiene items.
- The practice of charging high prices for commissary items takes money away from incarcerated people and their families and puts it in the pockets of private companies and sheriff’s departments.
- Government profit rates across California typically range from 25% to 54%.
- Furthermore, the cost of commissary varies from county to county. A small tube of toothpaste ranges from $0.85 to $3.60, and a bag of chips ranges from $0.45 to $2.00.
Phone Call Rates from County Juvenile Facilities: Many county juvenile facilities charge high prices and profit from phone calls to fund their operations. Parents and young people pay the price.
- The cost of a 15-minute phone call with a young person incarcerated in a juvenile facility varies from county to county in California.
- In some counties, these calls are free. However, this isn’t the case in all California counties.
- A 15-minute call from a child to their family can range from $2.40 in Solano County to $6.25 in Santa Cruz County to a whopping $13.65 in San Benito County.
As COVID-19 cases spike in CA Youth Prisons, “..staying connected is so crucial for our folks.”
~ Amika Mota, Young Women’s Freedom Center Policy Director, Statewide
3. DO THIS
SB 555 is a huge step toward accomplishing Freedom 2030’s call to: End the profiting off of incarceration and the criminal justice system. Join us to ensure SB 555 becomes law; take action in the following ways:
- Download the SB 555 Letter of Support Template.
- Customize the highlighted parts of the letter to make it your own.
- Email the letter to: firstname.lastname@example.org and Emily Harris, Ella Baker Center, at email@example.com.
- Tune in for more mobilization and for the social media toolkit you can use to share with your networks and boost support.
- View our press release here.