Civil Rights Group Claims Jail Inmates are Getting Scammed
POSTED: Thursday, January 20, 2011 - 5:29pm
UPDATED: Tuesday, January 25, 2011 - 12:02am
Accion America met with the county judge this morning to discuss the different ways to stop the alleged gouging and help the inmates at the county jail and county taxpayers.
The group claims a vendor, that's under contract with the Cameron County Sheriff's Department, is hiking up the prices of products sold at the jail.
"Inmates are paying 400% higher for products than anyone else."
Accion America's founder and president, Carlos Quintanilla, says he has received hundreds of calls from inmates and family members of those inmates they are being price gouged.
"You can go and buy pepcidin for a dollar yet pepcidin is being sold to these inmates for $2.90. Sanitary napkins that you can buy very inexpensively are being sold to female inmates at exorbitant prices."
We sat down with Cameron County Judge, Carlos Cascos, to talk about this issue. Here's what he had to say on the matter.
"It’s under the sheriff's jurisdiction and the sheriff's jurisdiction alone. The sheriff is the individual by state statute that determines the commissary award. He reviews the contract. The negotiations are strictly done by the sheriff."
Judge Cascos did meet with Quintanilla this morning. They met for an hour to discuss the allegation of price gouging. The judge says although the organization has some valid points, Quintanilla may be misunderstanding some numbers.
"Even though this vending company is making all this money, what's not in here is the cost of goods. If they have accounting and bookkeepers and staff that do this, that's not in there."
"Why isn't Cameron County the beneficiary of that profit and why is it not going back to the general fund or why isn't it being used to pay and offset some of the cost to house these inmates?"
Although the county is not allowed to get involved in the contract, the judge did ask Quintanilla to make a comment during the county commissioners meetings. Quintanilla says the vendor is cousins with Chief Deputy, Gus Reyna. Quintanilla also claims Reyna is the person overseeing such contract.
It's now up to the sheriff's office to review the contract and make any changes, if necessary, but the civil rights organization says that change is definitely needed.