The following was a prepared testimony that urged the San Diego County Board of Supervisors to make telephone calls free in jails. The testimony was delivered to San Diego County Board of Supervisors by ACLU-SDIC Policy Associate Esmeralda Flores on March 2, 2021.

Good morning, my name is Esmeralda Flores. I am a policy advocate at the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties.

The ACLU is a proud member of the Invest in San Diego Families coalition. We are here to urge the Board of Supervisors to ensure that telephone calls in jails are free. Thank you, Supervisor Lawson-Remer, for taking the lead on this critical issue.

People deserve to be in communication and connected with their love ones who are incarcerated.

· Incarceration separates people from their families. And it can also separate families from their most important source of stability and support.

· San Diego County should be doing all it can to strengthen communication and connection between people in its jails and their families…not profiting from their circumstances.

The pandemic has underscored how important it is that our county government ensure that the cost of a phone call isn’t a barrier for families to connect with their incarcerated loved ones.

· Given that public health safety protocols prohibit visitation – phone calls are an important way for families to communicate with incarcerated loved ones.

· Because people of color and low-income individuals are disproportionately incarcerated, they are also disproportionately impacted by these costs.

· Ensuring that calls are free is not only the humane thing to do, it will make us a more equitable region too.

The Invest in San Diego Families coalition urges this board to follow the example of San Francisco County who last summer ended the practice of generating revenue from incarcerated people and their families through phone calls, commissary markups and other services.

We call on you, our Board of Supervisors, to vote YES to support Supervisor Lawson-Remer’s motion to make phone calls free for people who are incarcerated.

Ending the practice of fee-based phone calls is an immediate, critical step San Diego County can take to address one of the many inequities that exist in our legal system.

It is past time to put people over profits.

Thank you for your time and consideration.