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What's an inmate welfare fund?

At the Sacramento Board of Supervisors on 2/8/22, the Inmate Welfare Fund Annual Report For Fiscal Year 2020- 2021 was presented (item 31).

So, what is an Inmate Welfare Fund?

The short answer is: the Sac Sheriff's Office (SS) gets money by charging folx held in jail (84% of whom are pretrial - SJPC article addressing this linked here) for things like food and toiletries.

The long answer is (text pulled from supporting meeting doc - linked here):

Sheriff may establish an inmate commissary store operation within the jail system. This operation provides inmates with needed goods and services. There are also pay telephones which are primarily used by inmates while incarcerated. The profits and other proceeds from the commissary, inmate phone system, and other sources are deposited into the Inmate Welfare Fund.

So, off to a good start, charging people for supplies that fulfill basic human needs, and for the ability to talk to people within their community support system. These community supports may be one of the most important factors in helping folx in jails avoid committing more "crimes" in the future, which is relevant given that this is the supposed "goal" of the carceral system.

Obviously, and this will come as a shock to NO ONE, the SSO doesn't actually care about "rehabilitating" people. They care about money and power. People within the jails without readily available funds become even more marginalized within these institutions than they were when they entered them.

You might be asking yourself, what are these funds used for?

The Inmate Welfare Fund shall be expended by the Sheriff primarily for the benefit, education and welfare of the inmates confined within the county jail. Any funds that are not needed for the welfare of the inmates may be spent for the maintenance of county jail facilities.

That doesn't seem so bad right? Well. As per usual, the SSO has a history finding ways to skirt-around the goal of the fund, which is to provide money for services for inmates.

The following quote is pulled from a report-back on the SSO's corrupt use of the fund that we published in 2021 - linked here. In July of 2021 it came out that the Sheriff had been misusing millions of dollars from the Inmate Welfare Fund.

The Sheriff has consistently received over 35% of General Fund dollars, and in fact receives so much money that it reports an average of $4 million in unspent dollars per year... In July, it came out that the Sheriff spent more than $15 million dollars on employee salaries from the inmate welfare fund -- money that is supposed to be used to support the people being incarcerated!

But don't just take our word for it! Here are a couple pieces from the Sac Bee covering the same issue:

  • ‘Flat out abuse.’ California lawmakers demand review of inmate welfare fund spending - article linked here

  • How Sacramento sheriff used inmate welfare fund for cameras, fencing — and a Tahoe resort - article linked here

What does this all mean?

It means the SSO is spending money from the Inmate Welfare Fund that should instead be budgeted from their LARGE portion of the General Fund. The money is not being used to help people in jail, rather it is being used to further the reach and grip of the carceral state.

This is a summary of how the SSO has been found to behave regarding the Inmate Welfare Fund (How Sacramento sheriff used inmate welfare fund for cameras, fencing — and a Tahoe resort - linked here):

So what's next?

Apparently it's just to continue the program, and keep dumping money into a corrupt system. At the report given on 2/8/22, it was revealed that the fund balance is estimated to be almost $12 million at the end of FY 21/22. But don't worry, the SSO is gonna do great things this year.

Based on the current projections for revenue and expenditures, the fund balance in the Inmate Welfare Fund is estimated to be $11,854,669 at the close of Fiscal Year 2021-22. The Sheriff’s Office is committed to providing inmates with quality goods and services at reasonable costs. We use Aramark to provide the commissary services, Inmate Calling Solutions, LLC for inmate telephone services, and are currently working to finalize a new contract for telephone services.

Stay tuned for more updates, we want to make sure the community is aware of all the nonsense taking place at the SSO.

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