Preckwinkle and Dart reviewing jail phone contract

April 2, 2012

(AP/file)
Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and Sheriff Tom Dart say they're reviewing a controversial phone contract at the jail that charges inmates inflated phone rates. On the high end, calls can cost $15 for 15 minutes. The cheap calls are about $7, though the county could immediately cut that price in half.

The county's contract with the phone company, Securus, requires the company to pay the county 57.5 percent of the revenue from the calls. It equals about $4 million a year, but that money comes from the largely poor families of inmates, many of whom can't even afford to post bond to get their loved one out of jail while awaiting trial.

Through spokesmen, Preckwinkle and Dart have both been blaming each other for the contract. Those spokesmen say the two elected officials are reviewing the contract, though they say it would be premature to comment further.

Both Preckwinkle and Dart have refused WBEZ's repeated requests over the last several weeks to personally discuss the issue.