MA Supreme Court: Sheriff Hodgson Can Keep Prisoners’ Phone Fees
By Kate Robinson
May 17, 2022
The state’s highest court has affirmed today that Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson is legally authorized to collect revenues for his office through phone service fees.
A May 2018 lawsuit taken by four people against Hodgson and county telephone contractor Securus Technologies had claimed that payments from the contractor to the sheriff’s office constituted “illegal kickbacks.”
Since the phone service contract was awarded in 2011, the plaintiffs alleged, phone fees at county facilities have doubled.
But in a decision from the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court published Tuesday, the court stated that a state law from 2009 does in fact allow sheriffs to raise office revenues through inmate calling service contracts.
Litigation Director for Prisoners’ Legal Services James Pingeon stated that the court decision “makes it clear that the legislature needs to pass the current No Cost Call bill in order to prevent the sheriff from continuing to charge families exorbitant telephone commissions to fund the costs of running the jail.”
“Site commissions are essentially legalized bribery that for too long has facilitated the enrichment of major telecom corporations over the wellbeing of Massachusetts taxpayers,” he noted.