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Los Angeles County Answering Service Solves Telephone Delays and Trains Inmates

NCJ Number
Large Jails Network Bulletin Volume: 1 Issue: 4 Dated: (March 1990) Pages: 6-8
R Osborne
Date Published
3 pages
The Los Angeles Sheriff's Department has implemented an innovative program to provide public information about jail facilities and persons in custody that uses inmates to handle telephone inquiries.
After assessing the complexity of the jail crowding problem and associated strains on resources and the need to handle public inquiries, jail staff opted for telephone system upgrades, expanded work stations, and inmate labor coupled with a vocational education program in telemarketing and office reception skills. Inmates were interviewed, tested, and selected for Inmate Answering Service (IAS) positions during the week prior to program implementation. It was determined that 80 inmate positions were needed to staff the IAS 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, including time for training, continuing education, and days off. Inmates are selected for work in the IAS based on their conduct and their verbal and reading skills. They are supervised by a deputy sheriff and a civilian custody assistant who also handle unusual inquiries and potential problems. Telephone system security is maintained and unauthorized communication is prevented by monitoring calls at random, recording all calls, and using a computer system to highlight unusual calling patterns. The IAS receives an average of 4,000 telephone inquiries daily, and 96 percent are handled immediately. IAS assignments have become highly prized by inmate workers.