We at PRISON CALL DEALS are always sad to see such stories, but at the same time it’s encouraging that there is publicity and media coverage of this problem – we hope that the publicity will serve to bring about change.
The TIME story focuses mostly on JPay Inc., a company that provides money transfer services for more than 70% of inmates in US prisons and jails; charging from 35 to 45% fees on all transfers.
JPay streamlines the flow of cash into prisons, making it easier for corrections agencies to take a cut. Prisons do so directly, by deducting fees and charges before the money hits an inmate’s account. They also allow phone and commissary vendors to charge marked-up prices, then collect a share of the profits generated by these contractors.
JPay’s rapid rise stems in part from the generous deal it offers many prison systems; they pay nothing to have JPay take over handling financial transfers. And for every payment it accepts in these states — prisoners typically receive about one per month — the company sends between 50 cents and $2.50 back to the prison operator. These profit-sharing arrangements, which vendors offer as deal-sweeteners in contract negotiations, are known in the industry as “commissions.”
Taken together, the costs imposed by JPay, phone companies, prison store operators and corrections agencies make it far more difficult for poor families to escape poverty so long as they have a loved one in the system.
According to the Center for Public Integrity, and their six month investigation into this, JPay and other prison bankers collect tens of millions of dollars every year from inmates’ families in fees for basic financial services. To make payments, some forego medical care, skip utility bills and limit contact with their imprisoned relatives.
As one mom of an inmate serving 20 years in prison says: “They’re punishing the families, not the inmates.”
You can watch a video about this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OiZj2wgbedg&feature=youtu.be