ALAMEDA COUNTY (KCBS Radio) - Alameda County is facing a federal class action lawsuit over its ankle bracelet monitoring program.
The county is accused of allowing a private contractor that oversees the program to extort exorbitant fees from people facing jail time.
The contractor, Leaders in Community Alternatives, charges defendants up to $25 per day to wear the ankle bracelet tracking devices. These are devices that are often orderd by the court as an alternative to jail time.
Phil Telfeyan is the executive director of Equal Justice Under Law, and the lead attorney in the class action suit.
"That contract has spiraled out of control into a scheme of extortion," Telfeyan said. "What's happening is people are being assigned by the county to LCA and LCA is threatening to jail folks if they can't afford to pay."
Defendants can be on the hook for $775 per month.
"We have a wealth based discrimination we think is going on, where people who are poor are put in this impossbile position of having to pay for their freedom," Telfeyan said, "Telling them, 'hey if you can't pay these fees, we're going to send you to jail.' Not only is that illegal under the constitution, it's a violation of the RICO Act, because RICO laws prevent companies from threatening jail just to extort payment."
There are four main plaintiffs associated with this case, but Telfeyan believes the class of people they represent in Alameda county could number in the thousands.
A representative for Leaders in Community Alternatives said the company had no comment. Alameda County officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.