Today's Law As Amended


PDF |Add To My Favorites |Track Bill | print page

SB-555 Jails and juvenile facilities: communications, information, and commissary services: contracts.(2019-2020)



As Amends the Law Today


SECTION 1.
 (a) The Legislature finds and declares all of the following:
(1) There is a statewide need to protect incarcerated people and their loved ones from predatory practices by private companies providing goods and services to people confined in county jails throughout the state.
(2) There is a statewide need to support county sheriffs in contracting with private companies who provide communications, information, or commissary services to county jails, out of recognition that these companies profit from deceptive and confusing contracts, and that imbalance often exists in resources and expertise in these negotiations that are advantageous to private companies.
(3) The people who suffer the most from these predatory industry practices and resulting unfair contracts are people confined in county jails, who are generally incarcerated pretrial and should be presumed innocent until proven otherwise, and their loved ones.
(4) The emotional toll and economic burden of having a loved one incarcerated is severe, and these individuals are deserving of the protection of the state.
(5) Promoting family and community connection and economic stability while a loved one is incarcerated is key to successful reentry, and it is therefore in the interest of all Californians to reduce the economic burden associated with incarceration in county jails to promote public safety.
(b) It is the intent of the Legislature to do the following:
(1) End commissions, reduce rates and fees associated with county jail communications, information, or commissary services, and provide guidance and increase the bargaining power of county sheriffs in negotiating contracts with private service providers.
(2) Reduce the financial burden on people with incarcerated loved ones in California county jails.
(3) Ensure that contracts negotiated by county sheriffs for communications, information, or commissary services are awarded to the provider who offers the lowest cost to consumers for services that meet minimal quality standards.

SECTION 1.SEC. 2.

 Section 4025 of the Penal Code is amended to read:

4025.
 (a) The sheriff of each county may establish, maintain and operate a store in connection with the county jail and for this purpose may purchase confectionery, tobacco and tobacco users’ supplies, postage and writing materials, and toilet articles and supplies and sell these goods, articles, and supplies for cash to inmates in the jail. Articles offered for sale at the store shall only be available for purchase by incarcerated people and not employees of the jail. 
(b) The sale prices of the articles offered for sale at the store shall be fixed by the sheriff. Any profit shall be deposited in an inmate welfare fund to be kept in the treasury of the county. offered at the cost paid to the vendor supplying the article. 
(c) There shall also be deposited in the inmate  incarcerated peoples’  welfare fund 10 percent of all gross sales of inmate hobbycraft.
(d) There shall be deposited in the inmate  incarcerated peoples’  welfare fund any money, refund, rebate, or commission received from a telephone company or pay telephone  company, pay telephone provider, or other communications or information service  provider when the money, refund, rebate, or commission is attributable to the use of pay telephones and other communications or information services  which are primarily used by inmates while incarcerated.
(e) The money and property deposited in the inmate  incarcerated peoples’  welfare fund shall be expended by the sheriff primarily solely  for the benefit, education, and welfare of the inmates confined within the jail. Any funds that are not needed for the welfare of the inmates may be expended for the maintenance of county jail facilities. Maintenance of county jail facilities may include, but is not limited to, the salary and benefits of personnel used in the programs to benefit the inmates, including, but not limited to, education, drug and alcohol treatment, welfare, library, accounting, and other programs deemed appropriate by the sheriff. Inmate welfare  Incarcerated peoples’ welfare  funds shall not be used to pay required county expenses of confining inmates in a local detention system, such as meals, clothing, housing, or medical services or expenses, except that inmate welfare funds may be used to augment those required county expenses as determined by the sheriff to be in the best interests of inmates.  expenses.  An itemized report of these expenditures shall be submitted annually to the board of supervisors.
(f) The operation of a store within any other county adult detention facility which is not under the jurisdiction of the sheriff shall be governed by the provisions of  this section, except that the board of supervisors shall designate the proper county official to exercise the duties otherwise allocated in this section to the sheriff.
(g) The operation of a store within any city adult detention facility shall be governed by the provisions of  this section, except that city officials shall assume the respective duties otherwise outlined in this section for county officials.
(h) The treasurer may, pursuant to Article 1 (commencing with Section 53600), or Article 2 (commencing with Section 53630) of Chapter 4 of Part 1 of Division 2 of Title 5 of the Government Code, deposit, invest, or reinvest any part of the inmate  incarcerated peoples’  welfare fund, in excess of that which the treasurer deems necessary for immediate use. The interest or increment accruing on these funds shall be deposited in the inmate  incarcerated peoples’  welfare fund.
(i) The sheriff may expend money from the inmate  incarcerated peoples’  welfare fund to provide indigent inmates, prior to release from the county jail or any other adult detention facility under the jurisdiction of the sheriff, with essential clothing and transportation expenses within the county or, at the discretion of the sheriff, transportation to the inmate’s county of residence, if the county is within the state or within 500 miles from the county of incarceration. This subdivision does not authorize expenditure of money from the inmate  incarcerated peoples’  welfare fund for the transfer of any inmate to the custody of any other law enforcement official or jurisdiction.

SEC. 3.

 Chapter 3.2 (commencing with Section 22120) is added to Part 3 of Division 2 of the Public Contract Code, to read:

CHAPTER  3.2. Contracts for Telephone Services in Jails and Juvenile Facilities
22120.
 (a) Any contract to provide communications or information services to a person detained or sentenced to a jail or juvenile facility shall be negotiated and awarded to an entity that meets the jail or juvenile facility’s technical, functional, and security requirements for services, and that provides the lowest cost of service to any person who pays for the communications or information service. A county may require a communications or information service provider to cover all costs related to the installation and maintenance of the telephone devices and services.
(b) A contract to provide communications or information services to any person detained or sentenced to a jail or juvenile facility shall not include any commission or other payment to the entity operating the jail or juvenile facility.
(c) Telephone rates and other service rates shall be reduced in response to the elimination of commission fees.
(d) This section applies only to contracts entered into or renewed on or after January 1, 2020.
(e) For purposes of this section, the following terms have the following meanings:
(1)  “Jail” means a county jail, a municipal jail, or a privately operated jail.
(2)  “Juvenile facility” means any juvenile hall, camp, ranch, or other facility where a person is detained as a result of a petition pursuant to Section 601 or 602 of the Welfare and Institutions Code.
(3) “Commission or other payment” means any payments made to provide an incentive for the procurement of contracts, but does not include grants and other payments that do not increase the cost of telephone calls or communications or information services billed to consumers.
(4) “Communications services” has the same meaning as defined in Section 22181.
(5) “Information services” means the offering of a capability for generating, acquiring, storing, transforming, processing, retrieving, using, or making available information via telecommunications, including electronic publishing. “Information services” does not include the management, control, or operation of a telecommunications system or the management of a telecommunications service.

SEC. 4.

 Chapter 5 (commencing with Section 22180) is added to Part 3 of Division 2 of the Public Contract Code, to read:

CHAPTER  5. County Sheriff Jail Contracts Act
22180.
 This act shall be known, and may be cited, as the County Sheriff Jail Contracts Act.
22181.
 For purposes of this chapter, the following terms have the following meanings:
(a) “Commissary services” means any goods sold inside county facilities to people confined therein.
(b) “Commissions” means revenue generated from the use of communications, information, and commissary services that is returned to county facilities and placed in the Inmate Welfare Fund.
(c) “Communications services” means telephone services, electronic mailing and messaging services, and video visitation services. “Communications services” includes Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology, as defined in Section 239 of the Public Utilities Code, and any technology that is developed after the operative date of the act adding this chapter that is made available to incarcerated people and their loved ones to facilitate their communication.
(d) “Fees” means an amount of money charged to consumers for the use of communications, information, or commissary services. Fees include hidden or undisclosed fees, including extra fees charged for opening an account, having an account, funding an account, closing an account, getting a refund, or receiving a paper bill.
(e) “Information services” has the same meaning as defined in paragraph (5) of subdivision (e) of Section 22120.
(f) “Rates” means a predetermined cost for use of communications, information, or commissary services set by the contracted companies providing services. The rates shall be determined by pricing agreements detailed in the contracts with sheriffs’ departments. A rate for communications services shall be calculated on a per minute basis.
22182.
 (a) Notwithstanding any other law, a county sheriff shall negotiate contracts for communications, information, or commissary services based on delivering the best price to the consumer, and shall award contracts for communications, information, or commissary services to the provider offering the best price to the consumer. To comply with this provision, during contract negotiations a county sheriff shall do the following:
(1) Negotiate for low rates.
(2) Refuse unnecessary extra services in the contract.
(3) Make their final decision to award a contract based on the total cost to the consumer, including fees.
(b) (1) A county sheriff shall require that the cost to consumers who pay for communications, information, or commissary services be included in the bid specification.
(2) A county sheriff may require a bid specification for a contract for jail communications, information, or commissary services to include prices for services that may be added to, or deducted from, the scope of work in the contract for which the bid is being submitted.
(c) A contract for communications, information, or commissary services shall not bundle multiple goods and services. Instead, a county sheriff shall individually negotiate for every separate and distinct good or service.
(d) A contract for communications, information, or commissary services shall include all the following provisions:
(1) A provision allowing the county sheriff, with the approval of the board of supervisors, to renegotiate at any time contracts for communications, information, and commissary services provided to the county jail.
(2) (A) A provision prohibiting the following specified fees:
(i) Fees to be charged for depositing money into incarcerated people’s trust accounts for commissary services.
(ii) Fees to open, maintain, fund, or close an account with a communications or information service provider.
(iii) Fees to receive a refund from a communications or information service provider.
(iv) Fees to receive a paper bill with communications or information service providers.
(v) Fees charged for third-party payments through companies including, but not limited to, Western Union and MoneyGram, consistent with paragraph (6).
(B) Subparagraph (A) shall not prevent the charging of reasonable rates for goods or services, as set by law. Subparagraph (A) shall not be construed to prevent sheriffs’ departments from disallowing any additional fees charged to consumers for these services, as they deem appropriate.
(3) A provision prohibiting communications, information, or commissary service providers from taking funds from consumers’ accounts after periods of inactivity. The provision shall require that if the provider violates the provision, then the funds shall be returned to consumers after 90 days of inactivity at no additional cost to the consumers.
(4) A provision that requires service providers or county facilities to fully refund individuals for prepaid scheduled appointments that are canceled or disrupted for reasons outside of their control, including, but not limited to, facility cancellation decisions, natural disasters, or other emergencies.
(5) A provision that requires individuals to be refunded for any prepaid amount of time that is disrupted or fails to meet the service quality standards included in the contract.
(6) A provision that requires service providers to offer multiple options for payment of charges, fees, and trust account deposits. For purposes of this subdivision, “options for payment” include financial services most likely to be used by the families and friends of incarcerated people, including, but not limited to, Western Union and MoneyGram. “Options for payment” shall not be limited to debit, credit, or gift cards and shall include options that do not require access to the internet for online transactions.
(7) For contracts in which service providers or facilities permit scheduling service appointments, including video visits, in advance, a provision providing that scheduling mechanisms do not require access to the internet.
22183.
 (a) Every contract awarded under this chapter shall be submitted to the county board of supervisors. That contract shall not be binding on the county until the board of supervisors finds it to be in accordance with the requirements of this chapter and endorses it.
(b) The county board of supervisors shall file a certified copy of each contract endorsed pursuant to subdivision (a) with the county controller. A failure to comply with this subdivision does not invalidate the contract.
22184.
 To ensure accountability for potential predatory practices by contracted communications or information service providers, a county sheriff shall regularly test communications, information, or commissary services awarded under this chapter as described below. The county sheriff shall document the test results and any subsequent remedial actions taken by sheriffs or the service providers, and shall consolidate the information into an annual written report to be presented to the board of supervisors for review. The report shall be made publicly available with the opportunity for 90 days of public comment. The county sheriff shall comply with the following steps when conducting trial tests of communications or information services:
(a) Tests shall include trial telephone calls to staff phone numbers not already in the provider’s system and shall include test deposits made via the mechanisms most likely to be used by the families of incarcerated people, including Western Union and MoneyGram.
(b) Tests shall be conducted biannually to monitor how the provider is charging and treating consumers. If it is discovered that the provider is charging consumers beyond the fees and rates disclosed in the contract, the provider is required to refund the charges to the affected consumers, pursuant to subdivision (d) of Section 22182.
(c) Tests shall be conducted with the oversight of individuals or agencies not immediately associated with the contracts, other than the contracted communications or information service companies and county facilities. Direct input from individuals who have experience utilizing county jail telephone systems both inside and outside of county facilities shall be required and documented in the written reports presented to the board of supervisors.
22185.
 (a) This chapter shall apply to contracts entered into, or renewed, on or after the operative date of the act adding this section.
(b) Rates shall be reduced in response to reductions in fees and removal of commissions.
(c) Companies contracting to provide communications, information, or commissary services pursuant to this chapter shall not increase or charge new fees in response to the reduction in rates in an attempt to make up lost revenue.
SEC. 5.
 No reimbursement is required by this act pursuant to Section 6 of Article XIII B of the California Constitution for certain costs that may be incurred by a local agency or school district because, in that regard, this act creates a new crime or infraction, eliminates a crime or infraction, or changes the penalty for a crime or infraction, within the meaning of Section 17556 of the Government Code, or changes the definition of a crime within the meaning of Section 6 of Article XIII B of the California Constitution.
However, if the Commission on State Mandates determines that this act contains other costs mandated by the state, reimbursement to local agencies and school districts for those costs shall be made pursuant to Part 7 (commencing with Section 17500) of Division 4 of Title 2 of the Government Code.