Dart: $15 phone calls worth reviewing

March 15, 2012

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Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart (AP)

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart is willing to take a second look at inflated phone charges being levied on inmates at the jail but he has concerns. That comes in response to Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle who is calling for an end to phone calls that cost inmates' families $15 for 15 minutes.

Frank Bilecki is a spokesman for Dart. Bilecki said it's worth reviewing options but he said the so-called "Instant Pay" calls allow inmates to contact friends and family who can't otherwise take collect calls because they don't have billable phone lines. Bilecki said about 7 percent of the calls from the jail are "instant pay."

"If the president is saying that we should just yank the cord on that aspect right now, how does she propose that we allow these detainees to make phone calls?" he said.

The phone company Securus refused to tell WBEZ why the instant pay calls are so expensive. Cutting the instant pay program leaves most of Securus' phone contract with the county in tact. The contract costs inmates' families but nets the county $4 million a year.