- Associated Press - Sunday, August 24, 2014

GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (AP) - A central Nebraska jail is now offering email service because inmates complained about the cost of in-state phone calls.

The Grand Island Independent reports (https://bit.ly/1mEa0YI ) the Hall County jail added email after it started housing 80 to 100 inmates for the state in July.

County Corrections Director Fred Ruiz said the state inmates have been more demanding since they arrived, but the jail staff is making adjustments. For instance, the state inmates complained about the jail’s food shortly after they arrived, so portions were increased.

“They know what’s going on,” Ruiz said. “They know how the games are played. They are a lot more demanding.”

Nebraska is sending some of its inmates to county jails to help relieve prison crowding without building a new prison. State officials estimated this spring that Nebraska’s prison system was at 158 percent of its capacity.

The state pays Hall County $88 a day for each inmate and cover medical costs.

Making phone calls from the jail can add up quickly if an inmate isn’t calling in the Grand Island area. A local call costs $3.75 for 15 minutes, but a 15-minute call to Omaha costs $14.30 because the jail’s carrier charges $3.95 plus 69 cents per minute.

Calls to numbers outside the state cost only 25 cents a minute, so calling California also costs only $3.75.

Ruiz said the jail has been trying to respond to inmate concerns about phone costs, but it can’t change what its phone company charges. So the email service has been popular.

“It’s $2 for a weekly subscription or $8 for a monthly one,” Ruiz said. “They have up to 1,000 characters per email.”

As a bonus, the email program the jail’s commissary vendor, Swanson Services Corp. of Denver, provides is making it easier to screen inmates’ correspondence.

After state inmates arrived, jail staff starting spending 60-to-90 minutes a day reviewing mail when before that task was completed in about 30 minutes.

Now the email system automatically flags words or phrases for review, and law enforcement can access any inmate’s email.


Information from: The Grand Island Independent, https://www.theindependent.com

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