Re: “Legislation threatens to derail county inmate welfare, rehabilitation efforts,” by Sheriff John McMahon, June 28.
As someone who has been incarcerated as a child and adult in San Bernardino, I’m writing in response to Sheriff John McMahon’s article opposing SB 555, which would reduce the financial impact on people supporting loved ones in California’s jails by lowering the costs of communication and commissary.
While I was incarcerated, being able to call and see my family was incredibly important to me and my well-being. Having regular contact kept me level-headed and on track to meet my main goal: to go home and stay home. When people lose contact with their families because they can no longer afford calls, they lose hope because they feel alone and unloved; they don’t think about returning home. My family was there for me during my incarceration, they answered my phone calls and showed their support, and I wanted to come home and show them I would be there for them.
In other words, staying in touch with loved ones plays a big role in improving re-entry and reducing recidivism, outcomes that Sheriff McMahon repeatedly states he cares about.
So, what’s the difference?
Sheriff McMahon’s programs are funded by families like mine through the collection of kickbacks on our calls, something he failed to mention.
SB 555 generates better outcomes while protecting the limited resources of our families.
As important as rehabilitative programs are to the well-being and reentry of incarcerated people, there is substantial academic evidence that shows that maintaining communication with loved ones is more effective.
But this binary is dangerous. We must have programs, and we must be able to openly communicate with the critical lifelines who support us through our incarceration and will be there when we come home. Neither should we bankrupt the families supporting their incarcerated loved ones.
This is what makes SB 555 especially important.
Danielle Perez, San Bernardino