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Teen’s Jail Calls to Parents Prove Costly

August 14, 1996

ST. JOHNS, Ariz. (AP) _ The parents of Justin Ballinger decided to teach the 18-year-old a lesson by letting him go to jail rather than pay his $1,200 fine.

The lesson wound up costing them $1,425 in phone calls. Now they’re ready to riot.

``I think that’s a bigger crime than what Justin did,″ Marsha Ballinger said. ``It’s ridiculous.″

Her ex-husband agreed.

``It’s a scam,″ said David Ballinger, whose bill included a $125 charge for a 22-minute call.

Justin served a week-long sentence for marijuana possession at the Apache County Jail after his parents refused to pay his fine.

Like many jails, Apache’s collect phone calls are handled by a private phone service that charges much higher rates than larger, well-known phone companies.

Zero Plus Dialing of San Antonio got the phone service by paying hefty commissions to the jails, as it does with 100 other jails nationwide despite complaints from its captive audience.

``I’m not paying it. Zero,″ Mr. Ballinger said. ``They can take my phone out.″

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