Preckwinkle Wants To Reduce $15 Charge For Calls From Jail

CHICAGO (CBS) — Inmates at Cook County Jail are being charged up to $15 per call for local phone calls.

As CBS 2’s Mike Puccinelli reports, the company that operates the jail’s phones and the county are both raking in huge profits because of it.

None of the money is being pumped back into the jail, or to inmate or victim services.

Inmates locked up inside Cook County jails maximum security wing are being charged to the max to make phone calls.

John Maki, executive director of the John Howard Association, a prison watchdog group, said, “I believe they go from $7 to as high as $15 per phone call,” including local calls.

Each of the jail’s approximately 9,000 inmates must pay those prices each time they make a non-collect call.

Bot Securus – the private company that oversees the calling system at the jail – and the county are making millions off the plan, with the county alone hauling in more than $3 million a year.

“Right now the county is making an obscene profit off of phone calls made by inmates,” Maki said.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle agrees.

“We want all of our citizens, including those that are inmates in the jail, to be treated fairly; and this seems like an egregious example of unfair treatment,” she said.

Maki said it’s not only unfair, but unwise. He said he thinks it hurts public safety to gouge inmates over a simple phone call.

“Study after study have shown that, when inmates don’t have the ability to communicate with their loved ones, they come out worse. Rhey come out more likely to reoffend,” Maki said.

One woman, who didn’t want to reveal her identity, said she’s had to pay dearly in the past two weeks, just to speak with her husband who was locked up for driving on a suspended license.

She said it cost $60 for her husband to make six calls from the jail, even though some of the calls were dropped after one minute.

As a result, she’s tried to discourage her husband from calling from jail.

“It’s just too expensive,” she said.

Although the county is in a $500 million dollar budget hole, Preckwinkle said the county can do without the millions in profits from calls from the jail, especially since inmates are innocent until proven guilty.

“I don’t care how much money it is. Exploiting people isn’t a good idea, even when they’re inmates in your jail,” she said.

Officials said the high cost of the calls is partly explained by the need to record and save phone conversations at the jail for up to five years.

However, in Will County, a recent contract charges inmates $3 per call, and 18 cents a minute after the first minute.

Securus representatives did not return calls for comment on the charges for phone calls at Cook County Jail.

More from Mike Puccinelli
  • tom sharp

    “…Obscene profit…”???? Get real!!! These losers have been feeding off the taxpayers from birth! They should raise those rates so they can’t communicate with their fellow gang bangers and family (those two not being mutually exclusive)!

    • staciesrant

      If the money were being used to help pay for their lodging while in the jail, I think that would be fair, however, when the money isn’t going into jail costs, what is the point?

      • Frank

        Its possible that some bad contacts might slip through the cracks, but on the positive side, they’ll have more affordable contact with those that love them. One main focus ought to be to help turn lives around. Compassion on the families who find it very hard to visit their loved ones. Eventually almost all detainees will be released back into the public neighborhoods and cities. Will they be more able to find work or enter schools with harsh treatment? I don’t think so. Remember, those phone calls are monitored. Preckwinkle must work to end the overcharge practice for phone usage. Most families cannot afford it.

    • D Mayah

      THis gouging hurts the family on the outside not the inmate. Families need to be able to communicate even if one person is incarcerated. This is a natiowide issue. Inmates can’t pay they have no money, so the families bear the burden just to know their incarcerated member is ok, when they need to obtain or contact legal representatives on the inmates behalf, to attend to other business that can’t wait until the incarceration is over.

    • NWA

      Not everyone who goes to jail is guilty or a gang banger. So, what losers do you speak of mister, “I’m not the life of the party?”


    • violet

      i agree

    • Donna

      Until you have walked in their shoes, who are you to judge? Not EVERYONE in jail is guilty. But for law enforcement to gouge people like this is obscene. As Neece posted earlier; I hope you or one of yours ever have to make a call from jail.

    • Neece

      Hey Tom, you say that now, however, you better hope that you do not get locked up for some minor infraction and have to make a lot of calls to home. Inmates, have been and will continue to be exploited. Its a shame that people have such a hard time finding compation withn themselves! I’m a firm believer in do unto others as they do unto you. I also believe in Karma! What ever you dish out, you get back 10 fold! Good luck all you soulless people!

  • Frank and Ginny Nicholas

    JHA has rightly focused on this issue for some time. Its time the public
    learns more about this unjust practice and that the fees are reduced.
    Most of the families of these detainees cannot afford gas for their trips
    to the CCDOC, much less the exorbitant phone fees. Thanks for working
    to reform our corrections system, John Howard Assn.


    fifteen dollars for a call? that is highway robbery.

  • tony

    Tom dart was a big backer of this phone system.I was trained to let inmates do a voice recording.And when i told the manager that i wasnt going to let them record their voice .He stated that i didnt have any idea what the sheriff would impose on me and that lots of money was involved.Im sworn staff

  • violet

    I think prison needs to be just that PRISON-regardless no priviliges and bread and water people will learn then (:

    • ladydi

      I hope nobody you love ever goes to jail with that stupid remark

    • seriously?

      what a dumb response

  • randy

    If you don’t want to pay 15 bucks for a phone call, then don’t commit crimes. Either that or write a letter. A stamp is 45 cents.

    • retphxfire

      Randy, I guess you don’t read all news and reports. Now, not all people being held have been on trial, been convicted, may even be innocent of any charges. What is being done is egregious and exploitation. I hope the inmates frind a way to place all calls collect and see the mangement and the county lose money.

      • bluefaery

        so i guess that the cops are just out looking for good ‘ol boys to throw in jail so that the county can make some extra money … right … and if you believe that boy have i got some land to sell you.

  • pam

    they are gouging the family

  • Fric

    Just another example of theft made legal by the system. And if you are justifying this just by reason that someone is incarserated, it just a testament to how narrow minded and judgemental you are.

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