How Jpay gouges prisoners' families for "digital postage stamps"

#1

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2018/08/03/mothers-day-gouging.html

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#2

That’s just straight up wrong :frowning:

It’s really angrifying and madmaking that our prisons are so engineered to create repeat offenders rather than work to keep people out of prison. And to add price gouging of a literal captive population on top of that is stupefying. And it is perfectly in line with the current administration’s view of the poor and middle class as a resource to be mined by rich people with connections.

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#3

It’s expensive to be a prisoner.

#4

To be clear, our prison system is to punish offending citizens for their sins. And then to provide profit for crony capitalists.
Recidivism is a side effect that conviently keeps working class people in their place.

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#5

I have a relative in prison and let’s just say the Prison Industrial Complex has found ways to monetize just about everything they can. After all, nobody gives two shits about losers in jail or that they basically have to buy everything inside now at exorbitant markups - toothpaste, soap, shoes, blankets, etc… And the only legal way for inmates to do this is by shaking down their families to put money on their accounts. The 15 cents a day they “earn” won’t cut it.

Take phone calls for example. Phone service is essentially a duopoly between Securus and GTL and they charge upwards of $1/minute for a “collect” call. The inmate calls and you receive an automated message asking for a credit card in order to be connected. There are no other options so you either pay up or you’re SOL.

The real crooks are on the outside of the walls.

One of the reasons for the significantly higher telephone rates stems from that facilities enter into exclusive concession contracts with a specific company to provide inmate calling services for all their inmates, typically favoring the provider that can provide larger commissions to the facility via their service fees.[2] A Congressional Research Service 2010 report cited concerns expressed by Citizens United for the Rehabilitation of Errants (CURE), that “telephone providers often pay prison operators a high percentage of the fees they collect for prisoners’ collect calls, and then charge inmates well-above general market rates for service…with commissions on telephone service… as high as 45- 65% of gross revenues generated by the service.”

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#6

Samuel Byrom was imprisoned for debt in 1725, and in 1729 he sent a petition to his old school friend, The Duke of Dorset, in which he raged against the injustices of the system:

Holland, the most unpolite Country in the World, uses Debtors with Mildness, and Malefactors with Rigour; England, on the contrary, shews Mercy to Murtherers and Robbers, but of poor Debtors Impossibilities are demanded … if the Debtor is able to make up his Affairs with the Creditor, how many Hundreds are afterwards kept in Prison for Chamber-Rent, and other unjust Demands of the Gaolers? … What Barbarity can be greater, than for Gaolers (without any Provocation) to load Prisoners with Irons, and thrust them into Dungeons, and manacle them, and deny their Friends to visit them, and force them to pay excessive Prices for their Chamber-Rent, their Victuals and Drink; to open their Letters and seize the Charity that is sent them; and, in short, by oppressing them by all the Ways that the worst of Tyrants can invent? Such Cruelty reduces the Prisoners to Despair, insomuch, that many choose rather to shoot, hang or throw themselves out of the Window, than to be insulted, beaten and imposed upon by the Gaolers … if every Gaoler was allowed a yearly Sallary … and no Gaoler suffered, under the severest of Penalties, to take either Bribe, Fee, or Reward, no Demand for Chamber-Rent, nor any Fees for Entrance or going out of Prison; in such a Case the Gaols would not swarm as they now do … In foreign Countries, where the Romish Religion prevails, what Crowds of People of both Sexes, from the highest Prince to the meanest Peasant, thrust themselves into Religious Houses … it is an apparent Injury to the Country … too obvious to be denied, that the many Prisons in England, where so many Thousands of both Sexes are detained, is a greater Loss and Injury to the King and Country …

Source: Fleet Prison @ Wikipedia

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#7

I would imagine gouging murderers and other dangerous people would be unwise, but what I would really like to see is Kaczynski’s face when presented with this technological monstrosity.

#8

my younger son has spent two different stretches of time in the texas prison system.

the first time was in a private prison that provided small portions of bad food. the company running the place had its own commissary system online with ridiculous prices. $7.50 for a 6-pack of ramen would be a good example of the kind of gouging they did. they also had refrigerated vending machines and microwaves in the visitation area that provided expensive but high quality food. jalapeno cheeseburgers were one of our son’s favorites. they were $6 apiece. a snack sized bag of tortilla chips was $2. a 20 oz soft drink was $3 while a 10 oz can was $2. the management of the prison was very much invested in making the most of the commissary.

the second stretch was in an actual tdcj prison that was on the coast and had an enormous farm attached to it. the fruit and vegetable crops they produced fed into the prison kitchens and the food was institutional but adequate and the portions were large. they, too, had an overpriced commissary system but nothing like the other one and the prisoners who had few friends or family were able to make it through without too much suffering on account of the food.

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#9

When the invisible hand starts performing body cavity searches…

But hey, there’s no captive customer base like a CAPTIVE CUSTOMER BASE.

USA! USA! US…Awwww fukit.

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#10

So FWIW this (below) is a post I wrote on the topic about 3-4 years ago-ish.

tl;dr - Fuck JPay, fuck Global Tel Link / Offender Connect, fuck all these private prison fucks.


This post is about one of the ways the prison industrial complex works its dark magic.

Michigan Department of Corrections uses a service called “Offender Connect” for outgoing prisoner phone calls. Like every other contracted privatized prison service, it is super shady and crazy expensive.

First, accounts are maintained by people on the outside, so that means if an inmate wants to be able to call 5 different people, then all five of those people need to have an account with a positive balance.

Second, there’s a fee for every deposit into your account. I always buy the same amount of time, so it’s 3.95 on 50, so about 7%.

Third, it’s expensive. It’s $.28 per minute. AT&T Long Distance, if you’re wondering, is $.07 per minute, or 1/4 of that cost.

Fourth, and here’s finally the thing that I discovered this morning because I’d never looked before: Every call is taxed at approximately 10%.

So in order for anyone on the outside to provide a modicum of comfort or aid to anyone inside the prison system, that outsider must pay two exorbitant fees and a 10% tax.

This is how the system fucks over the poor and vulnerable.

(And before anyone says some shit like “well if they hadn’t broken the law in the first place…” just do me a favor: unfriend me now, and go fuck yourself.)

These fees aren’t a problem for me - I make enough money that this expense isn’t burdensome. That means that my incarcerated father always has someone on the outside he can talk to, someone who can offer him a little bit of emotional support, someone who can make sure things are taken care of on the outside.

For anyone without even my meager income, which is the overwhelming majority of people in prison and their families, not only is this phone service a disproportionate drain on household resources, but it’s not an expense that can be maintained. Sooner or later, something costly is going to be more important than a call from the inside, and when that expense comes up, no more phone calls. No more friendly voices from the real world. No more basic humanity.

I’m writing this Jeremiad in the interest of spreading awareness. Like I said, I can afford the service without too much pain, but many others cannot. To paraphrase Peter Finch, I want everyone to remember that these are human beings, god damn it, and their lives have value.

And now I’m mad as hell.

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#11

The real crooks are inside the walls, too.

#12

The poor, Black or Brown People or anyone else that can be forced into a prison industry cage are simply livestock. They are part of the harvest for capitalism to feast on break and discard. Regardless the crime people are commodity for these parasites. Once harvested into the system it is rare for a person to ever break free. When I look around me and see all the cult of greed and hate that is used to keep some people forced down it sickens me. It would be sweet if we had some leadership on the horizon that might make a difference but right now All I see are tired old people trying to peddle the same old answers while the rich get ever more control.
“(And before anyone says some shit like “well if they hadn’t broken the law in the first place…” just do me a favor: unfriend me now, and go fuck yourself.)”

This line is perfect!

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closed #13

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