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Local News

Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Inmate Welfare Fund Reports $440,000 Surplus

Department expects lower future revenue after FCC ruling capping price of phone calls from prisoners

A fund for Santa Barbara County Jail inmate services reported a large surplus this year, mostly due to hiring shortages for programming. Administrators, meanwhile, expect lower revenues in the future as a result of a recent federal ruling to cap the cost of telephone calls made from custody.

The county Board of Supervisors got an update on the inmate services fund this week and voted 4-0 to receive and file the annual report, with Supervisor Janet Wolf absent.

The inmate welfare fund brings in money from commissary sales, telephone calls and the like, and saw a net gain this year of more than $440,000.

Major expenditures from the program include the Sheriff’s Department’s drug and alcohol treatment program, which cost $331,000 last year, according to county documents.

Part of the reason there’s a funding surplus is the staffing shortage within the department’s inmate programs, Custody Cmdr. Kelly Hamilton said.

“We are in the process of filling those vacancies and this money will assist in paying for them,” he said.

At the same time, the department’s inmate welfare fund will see a drop in revenue in 2016 because of lower telephone call rates being charged to inmates.

“The surplus will help us ‘float’ this shortfall through next fiscal year,” Hamilton said.

That reduction is the result of a recent Federal Communications Commission ruling that lowered rate caps for local and in-state long-distance inmate calling and barred most additional fees imposed by inmate calling services.

“New caps will reduce the average rates for the vast majority of inmate calls substantially, from $2.96 to no more than $1.65 for a 15-minute intrastate call for most calls, and from $3.15 to no more than $1.65 for most 15-minute interstate calls,” according to a statement from the organization.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.  

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