County Signs No-Bid Contract For Inmates’ Legal Research

The county this week entered into a no-bid contract with a Hayward-based company with which it had three previous no-bid purchase orders to provide legal research assistance to inmates in the county jails.
In doing so, the county will continue its policy of ensuring that inmates do not have the opportunity to independently access the internet and other data bases in their efforts to track down information of potential use in their upcoming criminal cases or appeals of their convictions but rather rely upon others who are not incarcerated and have no personal interest in proving their innocence.
The sheriff’s department provides ongoing legal research services for county inmates.
Traditionally, there are two different methods of providing legal research services to inmates, one consisting of the delivery of hard copy materials to them upon their description and request and the other consisting of providing them with direct access to an off-line external hard drive so they can personally engage in the research directly, consistent with the limitations of what is available on the hard drive.
This second method is problematic, according to sheriff’s captain Sam Fisk because, “In order to utilize the external hard drives, additional computers will be required at all facilities for the inmates’ use. This would require training the inmates to use the system and additional staff to monitor the inmates during this time, making this not a viable option.”
According to Fisk, “Legal Research Associates delivers hard copy materials after receiving a request from an inmate and researching the topic. The inmate can then read the materials in his or her housing unit.”
Fisk indicated that giving Legal Research Associates the contract to provide inmates with legal research assistance under a non-competitive process was justified.
“Legal Research Associates is the only known vendor that offers the hard copy method delivery for legal research,” Fisk said. “Purchasing concurs with the non-competitive justification of mandate/legal requirement.”
Because County Policy No. 11-05 requires that all contracts for services obtained without a competitive process and/or that exceed $100,000 in aggregate cost per scope of service, per vendor, per department after three consecutive annual periods must be approved by the board of supervisors, the contract was taken before the board this week. They unanimously approved the contract on a motion by Supervisor Robert Lovingood that was seconded by Curt Hagman.
Under the terms of the proposed contract, Legal Research Associates will respond to an inmate’s written request for legal research materials within three business days of receipt. In consideration for the services provided, Legal Research Associates is compensated at a flat fee of $5,000 per month.
On December 7, 2015, the Sheriff’s Inmate Welfare Committee approved continuing to contract with LRA to provide legal research materials to county inmates for a three-year period, in the amount of $180,000. The Inmate Welfare Committee is comprised of six citizens appointed by the sheriff to oversee the use of inmate welfare funds and acts as an advisory panel for inmate educational and vocational programs.

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