Tuesday, January 26, 2010

What It's Like to be Jailed

What It Means to Be in Jail Today – a series:
Part 1 – Contact with the Outside World

You’ll have to buy your toiletry items: toothpaste, toothbrush, soap, shaving items, etc.

Unless you have more than $50 cash on you when you enter, you won’t have the money to buy these items, since the jail will take your first $50, what the prisoners call "glomming", toward the cost of your confinement.

If your friends want to give you money, they’ll have to get a money order and drop it off at the jail in Freehold.

Your friends won’t know you need the money unless you can reach them. They can’t call you. You can only call collect.

If the person you call doesn’t have a major telephone (as opposed to cable) carrier, their carrier won’t accept a collect call. When they call the carrier they’ll be given an 800 number to call, which will take them to Correctional Billing Services (CBS). Oddly, the carriers don’t ask if your friend needs to receive a call from a prisoner, they just assume this is the case. I imagine a person might be asking so their daughter in college can call them collect. But they don’t. There must be so many prisoners today that prison service is the only service this #800 number takes you to.

The 800# will direct you through numerous prompts, but not the rate information until you get to #7, which will instruct you to call an 800#. Unless you wrote down the first 800# you won’t realize you’ve reached the same number until the automated system starts to sound familiar.

If your friend stays on the line long enough, and pushes the right buttons he’ll eventually get a web site address. When he goes there, he’ll see that CBS is owned by a huge parent, Evercom/T-Netix, which runs all the collect call services for more than 3,000 correctional institutions. Unfortunately, other than surcharges that are set by the state or federal government, your friend still won’t know what the rate for the call will be.

If your friend is willing to take this plunge into the financial abyss, he must set up an account with a $50 minimum, by check, credit card or, if I recall correctly, direct deposit at a location. The check takes 7 – 10 days before you can make the call; the credit card takes 24 hours. When he does accept your call he’ll have to be sure his call waiting is disconnected, that he’s not using a cordless phone, and some other details which could terminate the call prematurely, necessitating subsequent calls at additional cost. Meanwhile you’re waiting in a cell in a jumpsuit surrounded by other prisoners whose crimes you don’t know. And you are indeed silenced.

More to come regarding visits…

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