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Plans to reform jail communication in Wisconsin might not affect La Crosse County much

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The ways that county jail inmates in Wisconsin are allowed to communicate with people outside of jail are being examined.

The state legislature could vote on a plan to stop jails from charging fees such as $1 a minute for phone calls.

La Crosse County Sheriff Jeff Wolf said Monday on La Crosse Talk with Mike Hayes that communication isn’t a problem in the local facility.

He says e-messaging has become a preferred way for prisoners to contact family and others.

“For the price of a stamp, those that are in custody can contact their loved ones, send letters back and forth instantaneously, seven days a week, holidays and weekends, unlike the post office,” Wolf said.

A stamp currently cost $.58. According to the La Crosse County Sherriff’s Office the is the cost for e-messages:

  • 50-cents to send a message
  • 50-cents to attach a photo (in addition to the message fee)
  • 50-cents to add a reply stamp for an inmate to communicate back (in addition to the message fee)

Phone calls at the county jail can be made by the following ways:

  • An inmate can call collect (most expensive)
  • Inmates may purchase phone call minutes from their commissary account to add to their inmate debit account. Phone calls made through this method are charged to the inmate, not to the called party.
  • Friends and family members with Securus accounts may place money on their personal Securus accounts to allow inmates call their phone number directly.

The last option doesn’t clearly state a price, but one testimony on the website reads, “$5 for 20 (minutes) everyday if you want.”

A report from the Prison Policy Initiative found that some Wisconsin counties charge over $14 for a 15-minute phone call.

The new bill would cap jail call charges to the same rates that national prepaid wireless telephone providers charge, following complaints of overcharging inmates in some counties.

Wolf added that the average stay for a jail inmate is around 10 days, which makes standard mail impractical most of the time, because a prisoner could be out before getting a response to a letter sent from the jail.

Wolf said the county has tried to discourage traditional mail, partly because of the chance that it could be used to smuggle drugs.

He noted that paper items sent in the mail “could be laced with some type to drug, whether it be fentanyl or heroin or methamphetamine,” and that could put the health of jail employees at risk.

Other items available to inmates include:

Items Available to Purchase in the Jail:

  • Haircuts $15
  • Beard trim $5
  • Calling card $10.55
  • Daily Newspaper $0.75 Mon.-Sat. $2 Sunday
  • Commissary $40 (3 times per week) + unlimited hygiene items
  • Fresh favorites $6.99 (Sunday’s only)
  • Nurse call $3
  • Doctor call $5
  • RX co pay $5
  • Copies $0.25

A native of Prairie du Chien, Brad graduated from UW - La Crosse and has worked in radio news for more than 30 years, mostly in the La Crosse area. He regularly covers local courts and city and county government. Brad produces the features "Yesterday in La Crosse" and "What's Buried on Brad's Desk." He also writes the website "Triviazoids," which finds odd connections between events that happen on a certain date, and he writes and performs with the local comedy group Heart of La Crosse. Brad been featured on several national TV programs because of his memory skills.

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1 Comment

  1. Mike Rose

    January 8, 2022 at 11:11 pm

    Calling cards are for 15 minutes. Collect calling is $15 for 15. Pre-paid Securus accounts are still $5 for 15. You’ll only get the paper half the time you request it through the kiosk because the jailers just don’t care. $5 for a Tylenol. “I-Care” commissary orders come with a $7 delivery fee which entails the jailer bringing them all up on a cart from the kitchen. That’s a racket in itself. Drain flies in every shower. Inmates are not allowed to be sent new books from any retailer. Now they can’t even get letters.
    Trips to the jail “library” are very seldom. When the Chaplain quit he took carts full of the jails books to give to goodwill.

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