Hunger strike at Redwood City jail over inflated commissary prices

in Community/Featured/Headline

The San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office said Thursday it will reduce inflated prices of commissary items at Maguire Correctional Facility in Redwood City after inmates began a hunger strike.

The inmates reportedly began a hunger strike on May 16 to protest comparatively higher prices for commissary items, lack of free phone calls during the pandemic, and technical difficulties with the new remote video visitation system. Inmate Rodrigo Prieto filed a petition stating inmates and their families are economically struggling during the pandemic and should not have to pay inflated prices. His letter points out prices for the same items are lower in San Francisco County’s jail system.

“We find ourselves in a constant battle with administration over outrages (sp) commissary prices that go way above market value,” Prieto said in a note to jail officials. “We have filed numerous complaints about these said prices.”

The sheriff’s office said it has discovered that its commissary vendor, Keefe Supply Company, has indeed been charging higher prices at San Mateo County jails than other jails.

“We have worked with our vendor and have agreed to lower the prices to match those of the other jails,” the sheriff’s office said, adding that all revenue from commissary is used for inmate programs and commissary personnel.

It doesn’t appear free phone calls are on the table, per the sheriff’s office statement. The sheriff’s office contracts for inmate phone services at a rate of 4.5 cents a minute, with a half-hour call costing an inmate or their family $1.35.

The office also said it’s also trying to resolve technical issues with its new remote video system, established at the onset of the pandemic. Every inmate is receiving two 30-minute visitation sessions per week free of charge, the sheriff’s office said.