Jail: One Call, That's All?

Everyone has seen movies or show where the person in jail gets told “You get one call”. Is this true? I have never been to jail, so wouldn/t know from experience, but that just seems wrong. Wouldn/t the person have to talk to their lawyer and do many other things that require using a phone?
-And if it is not true, how did that idea get started?

I guess it depends on the jail and the mood of the officers at the time and whether you’ve been cooperative or not… The one time I was in jail (suspended driver’s license) they allowed me to make several calls to bail bondsmen and friends to arrange bail.

I’ve never been to jail. My friend who was said that there was a pay phone in the cell with him.

In actuallity you can be denied phone calls
there is no law stating you have to get one phone call if you are arrested,

Ask him if they let him keep any change to use in the phone. Unless you can call someone collect, you can be outta luck.

When I was in the can, I was fortunate to be working as a tech support type person. So I called our 1-800 number, badgered the rep into transferring me to the local call center, and got a buddy to bail me out.

Q.E.D has been in jail?!?

Yes. Once. for 18 hours. As I said, it was for driving on a suspended driver’s license; really no big deal. Not a lot of fun, though, I can tell you.

it depends on where you are.
usually the long term (>48hrs) cells have a phone configured to ONLY make collect calls, and only through a system that annouces that the call is coming from a correctional facility.
This is count y only, although I’ve heard the same thing about the pens, state and fed.
some places have this same type of phone in the holding cells, where you wait to get inprocessed.
other places, you have to be either in processed and into one of the longer term cells, or specifically allowed to use one that is not in a cell.

I do recall being able to make calls through one such system via one of the 800collect type services, and it would not annouce your presence in a correctional facilty.

oh, yeah.
they do not let you keep change.

I was in Jail once for the same reason as Q.E.D… There was a phone in the cell block and anyone could use it whenever they wanted or so it seemed. It wasn’t a pay phone but whomever you called automatically got an automated message saying something to the effect of: “You have recieved a call from an inmate at Sauk County Jail will you accept the charges?”

Once upon a time, they really didn’t have phones in prisons and so they rationed their use. Then prisons realized that pay phones can be a great source of revenue (skimming off of collect calls), and so they cut deals with the various Baby Bells. Penal pay phones proliferated.

I hope to be the first to identify that the

Penal Pay Phone Proliferation

is an astoundingly awesome name for a rock band.


When I was a full time police officer the department I worked for didn’t have holding cells, so everyone arrested automatically went to the county jail and the Sheriff’s department handled how bail was gotten, etc. So I have no idea if they got phone calls.

The department I now work for part-time has holding cells in it’s booking room. We hold arrestees for 4 hours. If they can’t make bond they get transfered down to the county jail, where they sit until the judge sees them, usually the next morning. Unless you get pinched on a friday. Then you’ll sit on your ass until monday.

We don’t let anyone make a phone call. Instead we ask them who they want us to call for them and we make the call. We’ll do this a couple of times (if you’re polite) until we can find someone. I’ve even driven subjects to ATM’s so they could get cash. This is a lot easier than transporting them down to the jail and sitting there all day waiting for paperwork to get processed.

What I hate is, our department won’t take credit cards. Not even for traffic violations (out of staters have to post bond). A lot of departments take credit cards for small bond amounts. We don’t . It would sure make some things go faster if we did!

This goes back about twenty years:

While waiting for a replacement part in order to pass safety inspection, I was ticketed for driving with expired plates. I promptly paid the fine. This was in the City of St. Louis.

I did two foolish things (besides driving with expired plates): 1) I paid cash and 2) I did not make a point to save my receipt forever. Being a native St. Louisan, I should have known better.

Thirteen months later, while driving through the county, (that is to say, the suburbs), I was nailed for going five minutes over the limit in a speed trap where the speed limit drops abruptly as one heads downhill. The arresting officer advised me that there was a warrant out for me and cuffed me.

I was taken to the local jail and waited two hours to be picked up by the St. Louis police. I was permitted to call my boss and he agreed to meet me at the St. Louis jail with bail money.

The police then permitted me to call a lawyer whose name my boss supplied. I was then also permitted to call my mother to explain why I hadn’t come by with her lunch yet–it was Sunday, and I had been headed over with sandwiches from a delicatessan.

So: it largely comes down to the mood of the police I expect.

As a further illustration of this, when the St. Louis police picked me up, I explained what had happened and they asked me if I wanted to go back to my car. I told them I hadn’t left anything of value in it. “No: do you…want to…go back to your car?” one of the officers repeated. I said I did and they drove me back.

They told me to be sure to call police headquarters tomorrow and find out what, exactly, I was charged with. I asked them if it would help if I gave their names, and they acted panicky. It was only then that it dawned on me that I was, in fact, escaping from police custody.

I then drove down to the police headquarters downtown and had to get my boss away from the desk sergeant so I could explain what had happened and slip out a side door.

I never did find out what, exactly I had been charged with: failure to pay, or failure to appear. That’s because the people at the clerk’s office said they had no way to look it up. One of them said it was “very sweet” of me to offer the case number as a help.

When I finally appeared before a judge I explained what happened and showed how my driver’s license had been returned to me. The judge got a look on his face which seemed to say: “damn it: not again!” and dismissed the charges against me.

About five years later the city installed a hidden camera in the clerk’s office and shot videotapes of employee’s stuffing fine money down their cleavage. About five years after that I became a lawyer, but I was never able to bring myself to do traffic work.

5 minutes? Does your car have a Flux Capacitor?:stuck_out_tongue:

So you can really be denied a call depending on the officer’s mood? Aren’t you supposed to have the right to contact a or your lawyer pretty fast? And if the only way you can do so is by calling him/her???

Forgive my ignorance; perhaps that’s only when you’ve been charged with something and maybe a week is considered reasonable as far as how long you have to wait to talk to a lawyer…

I work with a guy who had to spend almost 3 weeks in a county jail. He said that at least one time a day (sometimes more if you asked), the jail guards would walk around with a portable handset and go from cell to cell, asking if anyone wanted to call. The phone could only call collect and the fee was outrageous. He would call his friends and relatives a few times a day, until they started to complain that their short 5-10 minute phone conversations were costing them 5-10 bucks a pop. I guess encouraging the bored inmates to use the phone is a much bigger moneymaker than the snack and soda machines in the visiting room.

Hence the name slipster?

It’s my understanding that the authorities will contact a lawyer for you if, for some reason, you can’t use the phone. I think the point is, that while you are guaranteed access to legal counsel, you are not guaranteed a phone call.