Jails are NOT profit centers, and people in custody are not slaves. Privatization of jail system phones and commissary has resulted in overcharging inmates, and a lucrative revenue source for the County Jail. This has incentivized the County to expand with MORE jail space and additional profit centers.
A vital role of government is operating jails to protect us from convicted criminals and punish them for their crimes. Operating a jail is expensive, but it is a vital expense. Security, risk, housing, feeding, transporting, and everything involved costs more due to the nature of the environment. But Contra Costa County Jails should not be profiting from the inmates it confines. As a criminal defense attorney here in Contra Costa, I am passionate about the rights of my clients and all accused of crimes.
The Contra Costa Jail is not a prison to punish serious offenders. It’s primary role is to house INNOCENT people pre-trial, as they await their day in court. In fact, in 78% of County jail detainees are awaiting trial. These are people who could not make bail and are in the jail awaiting their day in court. Remember our justice system is based around the presumption of innocence, “Innocent until proven Guilty”. Pre-sentence inmates are milked like revenue cows to make money for the County. Every phone call made and every item purchased in the commissary is sold at significant markup and profit for the jail. Consider that an inmate too indigent to afford bail is doubly hurt by up-charging him for phone or commissary.
Contra Costa County takes in over $1.5MILLION a year from inmate revenue. Granted, this money is spent on inmate welfare and services: Library, Chaplain, hygiene, recreation, TV, etc. But these are services the jail would otherwise need to provide anyway. That’s like an airline charging you for a seatbelt! It is a profit center that hurts the most vulnerable at the most difficult time in their lives. And remember that more than THREE QUARTERS of these revenue farmed detainees are still presumed innocent and awaiting trial.
The commissary is operated by Trinity Services Group. They sell a 4oz bottle of shampoo to inmates for a very reasonable 97¢. Then things get very unreasonable. In order to deposit money in an inmate’s account, there is a minimum $3.50 fee assessed to the deposit. Sales tax is applied. And an additional $4.95 delivery fee is added to complete the transaction. So the reasonable 97¢ for a 4oz. bottle of shampoo ends up costing more than $6.01.
The phone system is a worse offender, going beyond usury into violating civil rights. The Detention Facility inmate telephone service is provided by Global Tel*Link. They collect fees, connect the calls, and record the calls made from inmates to others. As covered by justice group Nation Inside, Intrastate calls cost $3.25 for the first minute, plus .25 for each additional minute. The County gets a kickback commission payment of up to 57% on GTL calls.
Unless an attorney has provided a written request on letterhead to Custody Services Bureau, Main Detention Facility, 1000 Ward Street, Martinez, CA 94553, the attorney client call will be recorded and available for live monitoring. Detainees have no expectation of privacy, and the DA can listen to all calls EXCEPT the few that are on the pre-approved Attorney list. THese calls make money for the jail, and provide a rich source of evidence that can be eavesdropped or replayed in violation of attorney client privilege. You can see why the County loves this vendor relationship, and is constantly seeking to expand it. How many people have been jailed due to the County listening in to private conversations that should not have been recorded and saved forever. How many inmates have been coerced into false confessions based on innocent information shared on GTL phones? Imagine a jailer coaxing an inmate to falsly confess or take a bad plea deal if he wants to see his sick grandma, or watch his baby be born. This info has nothing to do with crime or jail safety, yet is available for the County to access and use.
These issues are not isolated locally, but widespread across jails and prisons nationwide.
Even prisoners have rights. But more importantly, and relevant to my interests as a criminal defense attorney, those accused of crimes have rights and deserve fair treatment and a fair trial. When jails are looking at Revenue rather than Justice, the system cracks open with conflicts and problems.
Getting arrested and booked are not things that most people experience in their lives, so going through the process can be shocking and scary. You may not find much compassion during this time as you are pushed through the legal machinery. Arrest and Booking are separate posts, but Bail deserves its own article. Hopefully you will find information to help put you at ease as you or your loved one is processed through the system. As a passionate defender of your rights, I am here to defend you through this process.
First, a quick arrest chronology leading up to Bail. It started with the Arrest, and hopefully you remembered your right to remain silent; and you should have called your attorney. Then the police Booked you into jail for holding as they sort out the charges. Your rights, as the police reminded you in their Miranda Warning, are to remain silent, and to be represented by an attorney. You should have kept mum and called your attorney by now. In California, the Police can hold you for up to 48 ours before charging you with a crime. You will appear before a judge, hear your charges, and declare guilty or not guilty. You should DEFINITELY have your attorney by your side for this portion, called the Arraignment.
When a judge thinks the defendant is a safety risk, the judge can deny bail, or set conditions on bail, such as limiting travel, interactions, treatment, and other conditions. Arrested individuals accused of particularly heinous crimes will be denied bail and help as a “pre-trial detainee” in the interest of public safety and justice.
Some alleged crimes, and many accused people, do not warrant jail time before trial. These clients will be released on their own recognizance. Also abbreviated ROR. People with strong ties to the community, who are not likely to skip out on trial get ROR. Other accused are held in jail until trial, and offered to post a bond to ensure their appearance. This process is known as bail.
If you are held in jail before your trial, “posting bail” is a way to ensure that you will appear in court when told to do so. The idea is that a cash deposit on your appearance will get you to show up in order to reclaim your deposit on yourself. Bail can be a few hundred dollars, or over a million if you can afford to “bail” on your bail and flee. Fortunately, the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution requires that bail not be excessive, so in a just court, your bail should be commensurate to your means. The judge is responsible for setting your bail, and your attorney can help explain to the court why your bail should be lowered, or why you should be released ROR.
If you have the funds available, you can pay the bail yourself, in cash or in a cash equivalent. A Bail Bond can also be posted via a commercial bail-bondsman that is a guarantee of full bail payment. A bail bond will require collateral to ensure their risk of posting your bail. Often, a home or other real property can be used as insurance for posting a bail bond. A real estate appraisal will be made quickly to see if the value covers your bond. Bail bonds cost a percentage of the bail they are posting. If you show up to court as required, the bail will be refunded to you (or the bail bondsman). If you fail to appear in court, the court keeps the money and can issue a warrant for your arrest.
Defendants who do not post bail will remain in jail until their trial as a “pre-trial detainee”. This is real jail with real convicted criminals, not a special “innocent until proven guilty” jail. Some defendants have no choice but to sit in jail until trial. Some prefer it to life on the streets. But in most cases, being home with your family is preferable to jail pre-trial.
If you have any questions about the arrest or bail process, or need a compassionate attorney at your side, please give Jaye Ryan law office a call. Our office is located just steps away from the Contra Costa Jail, and we are here to help.
I have daughters that are smart and fierce (like their lawyer momma!). At Halloween-time girls want to have fun and express themselves with costumes that reflect their personal energy. Most store-bought costumes for tween and teen girls exhibit T&A, rather than clever personal expression. You may have read about or maybe seen a “Sexy Cop”, or a witch dress with thigh high garters and 4” pumps. These manufactured costumes cannot help a young woman shine as an individual. And what the heck is with “sexy” R2-D2? How can that little astromech droid get ANY sexier than he already is?
Kids today are smarter than pre-fab costumes give them credit for. Part of the fun of expressing yourself is actually MAKING the costume with bits and bobs from Goodwill, Michael’s, and items around the house.
Here are a few ideas for Do It Yourself costumes for young women that will let them show off who they are, rather than be objectified in a crappy polyester frock.
- Supreme Court Justice The US has three women sitting on the Supreme Court. Justices Ginsburg, Kagan and Sotomayor have broken ground and glass ceilings for girls everywhere. What more empowering role is there than as one of the most wise and powerful women on earth? This costume is simple. A black graduation gown from Goodwill, a lacey collar or scarf, and maybe a gavel for a prop. Tight bun and dour expression are optional.
- Punk Rocker Halloween costumes are about personal expression, and so is the Punk scene. Black leather, torn shirts, run tights, safety pins, pops of color, black nail polish, loud hair, a dash of 80s makeup, you know the drill. A short skirt and pare shoulders can work here as part of the authentic costume, not a tacky come-hither feature. The kids can have fun with this one, breaking all the dress code rules at school.
- Doctor The Sexy Nurse is soooo 1959. Our kids do not need to indulge the fantasies of middle aged men. A doctor costume is an assertive look that puts her
at the top of the medical food chain. Lab coats and scrubs are plentiful at thrift shops, and props like a stethoscope or surgical mask enhance. This can be taken to the macabre with splashes of fake blood. And when some old timer asks “Oh, are you a cute little nurse?”, it is totally OK for your daughter to reply “No, I’m a surgeon. Are you a nurse?”
- Zombie Hunter There will be zombies stumbling the streets Halloween night, and who better to protect the little ghosts, pirates, ninjas and princesses than an official zombie hunter? This costume can be a mash up of hunting gear, post-apocalyptic accessories, and comically dangerous looking weapon props. Giant cartoony Nerf guns, crossbows, and axes are perfect. Your daughter has big brains that the zombies want to eat, and she can protect herself.
- Viking Warrior Archaeologists recently discovered that as many as half of the Norse warrior remains they had been studying were of female Vikings. Viking women were partners in defense and conquest. This costume has lots of room to play with props and accouterments. Chain mail, helmets, shields, battle ax, swords, braided hair, war paint, rugged boots. But keep in mind that Viking women only wear bikini armor in stories written by horny men.
There are plenty of pop culture role models girls may want to be, and that you can find costumes for: Katniss, Wonder Woman, Princess Leia, Hermione, Cleopatra. But part of the fun is creating a new character and costume from scratch.
A costume is a reflection of her imagination and aspirations. If she wants to be an homage to an old-timey stewardess in a short skirt, that is OK; but let’s not put her in a miniskirt and call it “Sexy Airline Pilot”.
At the end of the day, any costume that your daughter creates and is comfortable wearing is a good one for her. Don’t let a shabby store costume dampen her self esteem. Let her self esteem blossom through creative expression in a costume she creates.
Jaye Ryan is a criminal defense attorney based in Martinez serving clients from around Contra Costa County. She specializes in serious crimes and the cross examination of forensic evidence. Her office is downtown, steps from the Contra Costa Jail.
Throughout time, universities were known as islands of free thought, promoting open inquiry, and leading ideas forward. In 1964, the University of California cracked down on the expression of ideas on campus, announcing University regulations prohibiting advocacy of political causes or candidates, outside political speakers, recruitment of members, and fundraising by student organizations strictly enforced. This triggered a backlash on campus, and the activism of the Free Speech Movement at UC Berkeley. This was turning point in the civil rights movement and kicked off student activism nation-wide.
Free speech is important, and a right, which makes abrogation of free speech on campuses a grave threat to all.
There’s a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious — makes you so sick at heart — that you can’t take part. You can’t even passively take part. And you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop. And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all. – Mario Savio on the steps of Sproul Hall
I was born well after 1964, but the legacy of Mario Savio and the FSM helped me decide to become a lawyer. To defend people and their rights, despite the public harassment they may face, or I may face for defending them. Sometimes I defend murderers, sometimes caring parents who are cruelly charged with false “Shaken Baby Syndrome” when their infant accidentally dies, and sometimes I get to defend people accused of the “crime” of free speech.
A few years I defended an Occupy Cal protester against criminal charges related to their exercise of free speech. The crux of the case was a violation of First Amendment rights.
This month, the Regents of the University of California system are proving that they cannot leave well enough alone. They are once again tinkering with the rights of free expression on campus. UC policy that stifles dissent and free speech is wrong headed. To protect the feeeelings of a few students, the Regents are drafting rules that will quash free inquiry and repress political debate.
Regents chairwoman Monica Lozano announced “…the creation of an eight-person committee — of regents, the student regent, a faculty leader and others — to craft stronger and more specific policies that would protect academic freedom and yet condemn intolerance against any group.”
Of course any hateful acts, threats, or intimidation is wrong, but there are already crimes for those. What the UC Regents are doing here is a form of thought police that nips the expression of ideas in the bud, and put a student or professor in jeopardy for sharing an idea, or exploring a notion aloud. University is not about being sheltered from new and controversial ideas. University is where ideas are allowed to flourish or die on their own merits, for the benefit of the world.
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