Special to The Dallas Examiner
Dallas County to Set Inmate Call Cost at All-time Low
Dallas County Commissioners Court voted on a jail phone contract Feb. 4 that will make the cost for inmate calls among the lowest in the nation. At just above a penny per minute, loved ones of county jail inmates will no longer bear exorbitant costs to remain in contact with those awaiting trial.
“This is an important component in criminal justice reform. We believe this one of the lowest per minute calls in the country and are pleased to provide families much needed relief,” said Dallas County Judge Clay Lewis Jenkins.
Last year, Dallas County directed its purchasing department to draft a request for proposal that did not include any revenue sharing for inmate calls or video visits in this new contract. If approved, the new contract will set a 15-minute phone call at 18 cents when it was $3.60 in the previous contract. Additionally, the cost of video visits has also been reduced as well as fees paid to third party vendors.
In 2014, Jenkins led efforts to reject a proposal from a vendor that would have eliminated in-person visitations in the county jail while setting high fees for video visits in which the county would share profits. Scores of residents called, emailed, and spoke to the commissioners’ court about the fees and charges for phone calls from the jail.
Dallas County ultimately sided with inmate families refusing profit sharing on video visitation and approving an amended contract that reduced phone call cost to 24 cents per minute and kept in-person visits in place.
“We heard from relatives who were choosing between buying food and taking calls from the jail,” Jenkins said. “Being in contact with your loved ones while they are in jail is important to their wellbeing and plays a significant role in recidivism rates.”
Dallas County Commissioners Court will be considering the new, much lower five-year contract at 9:00 a.m. in the commissioners courtroom.
DART’s Vanpool Program Awarded to AVR
Dallas Area Rapid Transit has awarded a five-year contract to Airport Van Rental Vanpool to operate its program benefiting commuters and participating employers with vanpool vehicles seating up to 15 passengers.
The program contract is for 220 vehicles, estimated at $3.4 million annually, funded 35 percent by a North Central Texas Council of Governments federal grant, 55 percent by users and 10 percent by DART for staff management.
Since 1995, DART has provided vanpool service for transit riders whose commutes either originate or end within the DART service area, and where bus or rail services do not exist, or options are unrealistic.
Riders are guaranteed a seat and share the cost of the van amongst the passengers matched up from Dallas, Ellis, Collin, Hunt, Rockwall, Kaufman and Navarro counties.
For more information, email DART’s vanpool coordinator or call 214-747-RIDE.