Inmate sues Solano jail for stamps, phone calls, $1M

By From page A4 | July 11, 2014

FAIRFIELD — A Solano County jail inmate with a long criminal history has sued the jail and Sheriff Thomas A. Ferrara, seeking postage stamps, free phone chats with his mom and $1 million.

Joshua N. Harrell, 37, filed his federal civil rights lawsuit Monday in Sacramento, claiming his constitutional rights are being violated. Harrell, who has a history of more than 20 arrests for a variety of felonies over the years, is awaiting trial on burglary and forgery charges.

Harrell claims that his mother lives in Belize and that their lack of communication has caused them both mental anguish and emotional distress.

“I should be able to get on the phone and call whoever I want, wherever they are in the world. I should be able to put whatever postage is due for an international letter on an envelope to write family friends and loved ones,” Harrell states in his lawsuit. “I want the court to order Solano County jail officials to let me make two free phone calls to my mother every week I am in their jail.”

The jail canteen sells envelopes with postage prepaid and does not sell stamps.

Sheriff’s officials do not comment on pending litigation.

Federal Magistrate Judge Allison Claire has not set any hearing dates for Harrell’s lawsuit.

Reach Jess Sullivan at 427-6919 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jsullivandr.

Jess Sullivan

Jess has covered the criminal justice system in Solano County for several years. He was an embedded reporter in Iraq in 2003.

Discussion | 20 comments

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  • boomJuly 11, 2014 - 12:42 am

    The guy has one point; The jail doesn't sell postage stamps like they do in prison, he can only buy an envelope with a stamp already embossed on it.They should change that so the commissary sells individual stamps and envelopes, or continue to have lawsuits like this clogging up the courts system. On a side note, the county is really lucky they don't have too many intelligent, law savvy cons in their jail system with the amount of knowledge it takes to start a class action lawsuit against Aramark and the county.

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  • 2realJuly 11, 2014 - 5:53 am

    Suing the jail?, good job con. Its the new thing going around now. Plus in this jarhead county, youll probably win.

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  • Bill of RightsJuly 11, 2014 - 6:20 am

    What a breakdown in our society. We have gone from a tough stance on the criminals to a soft, show your underbelly approach to dealing with criminals. "I want" should not be a term allowed while institutionalized! But some think these criminals deserve the luxuries afforded to the same people who follow the rules of the land. I think not. Liberals are destroying this country!

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  • Mr. Green ValleyJuly 11, 2014 - 6:35 am

    It's not only the extremist liberals. It's also the out of control lawyers and judges allowing and winning frivolous lawsuits.

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  • mike kirchubelJuly 11, 2014 - 8:29 am

    I am not reporting an abusive comment...once again the buttons are too close. Mr. Bill and mr. Valley, the guy didn't win a million dollars, he filed suit. There is a difference and it's a million dollars.

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  • Mr. Green ValleyJuly 11, 2014 - 11:24 am

    Mike, Just the process in itself will cost all California tax paying citizens money. We will pay the court fees among other administrative costs during the litigation process. Truly it shows the level of entitlement within our current society and outlines the true distinction between Crime & Punishment (where the crime doesn't not necessarily dictate the type of punishment, but only the length). Meaning a murdered would have the same benefits within the jail system as someone that committed financial fraud. The difference would be the length in which they were penalized but not the type of penalty. Any of our tax dollars going to frivolous suits like this is a waste, and our society continues to allow it.

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  • patrickJuly 11, 2014 - 12:16 pm

    I think everybody knows that. MR GREEN VALLEY explains that below.

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  • John AndersonJuly 11, 2014 - 6:40 am

    Send these bums to "Devil's Island" for a month and they will beg to return to the comparative COUNTRY CLUB that is the current USA incarceration system

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  • CD BrooksJuly 11, 2014 - 8:44 am

    This is why we have jails for ign*rant people. Criminals always forget the "other guys" rights when they're obliterating them. But thanks to laws and regulations. protecting them, they demand their own.

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  • boomJuly 11, 2014 - 10:39 am

    @CD-I would agree with you that criminals often obliterate their victims rights with the caveat that the public often forgets the criminals are human too. Dude has a case, their are laws in place to assure prisoners in custody can have contact with their families via mail, if they didn't there would be even more abuse at the hands of correctional officers.

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  • caligirl12July 11, 2014 - 12:23 pm

    They are in jail for a reason, not because they are fine upstanding pillars of society... They committed a crime of some sorts.... if you don't like what's inside the jail, don't be stupid enough to get in trouble in the first place.

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  • people are crazyJuly 11, 2014 - 12:28 pm

    If he don't like the way the jail operates, he shouldn't do the crimes he's doing to be in there. I don't think inmates should get the crap they get anyways. It's jail. It should be a punishment.

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  • Tort reform needed......July 11, 2014 - 1:00 pm

    I would think that maybe this would be a good example of why there should be tort reform, with an emphasis on having a panel determine what constitutes a frivolous case. As well, perhaps the county jail/sheriff/prison authority should spell out, when a prisoner arrives, what privileges they get (i.e.- 1 local phone call per day/week, 2 prepaid envelopes per week, etc) and maybe litigation like this won't happen.

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  • boomJuly 11, 2014 - 3:06 pm

    Well, if any of you care to look at what the laws of the state of California say on the subject, google Title 15. You'll see the whole list of rules and regulations that are to be used in a detention facility in this state. Pages 83 and 84 pertain to mail , if any of you get that far, you'll see the first thing they talk about is encouraging correspondence with people outside the facility. Sounds like a far cry from what's happening here in Solano.

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  • B JJuly 11, 2014 - 6:17 pm

    I have a brother in law that trys and call me and my other family collect. But we don't answer it,cause the price of a collect phone call from jail / prison is outrageous. But if he wanted to make a call then call his family collect they can't deny that phone call to him. Cause my brother in law does it to us. It also depends what type of trouble he's in to not be able to make call. You have to look at it in that way too.

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  • boomJuly 11, 2014 - 7:12 pm

    @BJ-But when you get on the phone in jail it won't let you dial internationally. This guys mom is in Belize? Yeah, he can't call her. I'm not really arguing for this guy to have phone calling internationally , I just think they need to start selling stamps and envelopes so he can communicate with her.

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  • B JJuly 11, 2014 - 9:19 pm

    Boom don't you have to have money on you book to pay for the stamps? And my point is calling his mom you get the phone and dial 0 for operator and give them the number? THATS how my brother inlaw does it to call me and my family.

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  • B JJuly 11, 2014 - 9:22 pm

    Mean t to say stamps and envelopes

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  • boomJuly 11, 2014 - 9:57 pm

    @BJ-If you have less than $1.40 on your books, you get a cheap razor, two envelopes with the stamp embossed and a small tube of toothpaste. You can't press 0 and dial an operator, the whole system is owned by Globaltellink, who actually just lost a lawsuit for overcharging inmates families for collect calls. Now, if they gave him two envelopes and two stamps a week, he could save up for however many weeks and get the extra postage to mail his mother in Belize. I'm telling you guys, its an easy fix, and the county would make more money because they would be selling two different items to inmates who have money in their account instead of selling just one envelope with an embossed stamp on it. Sometimes the solutions are so simple, you wonder how there was a problem in the first place.

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  • B JJuly 11, 2014 - 10:54 pm

    Boom Thanks for clearing that up for me and who ever else. I guess I don't know that much about jail/prison. Cause I for one don't get involved with the law to get busted or end up in jail. On the other hand you would think he or they would wise up so they could talk to their families and stuff and not be in jail in the first place. But then again look at this fools record

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