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Old 09-30-2014, 06:00 PM   #1
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For-Profit Prison Bankers Prey On Inmates' Families With Exorbitant Fees The Center for Public Inte

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/0...n_5902818.html


For-Profit Prison Bankers Prey On Inmates' Families With Exorbitant Fees


Editor's note: This is the first in a two-part series examining how financial companies charge high fees to the families of prison inmates. The second part, which will run Thursday, focuses on no-bid deals between Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase & Co. and the U.S. Treasury, under which they provide financial services to the federal Bureau of Prisons.

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. — Pat Taylor doesn’t believe in going into debt. She keeps her bills in a freezer bag under her bed, next to old photo albums, and believes in paying them on time religiously. For Taylor, living within your means is part of being a good Christian.

Lately, Taylor, 64, has felt torn between that commitment and her desire to be a loving, supportive mother for her son Eddie.
son

Pat Taylor holding a picture of her son, Eddie, who is serving 20-year prison sentence at Bland Correctional Center in Virginia.

Eddie, 38, is serving 20-year prison sentence at Bland Correctional Center for armed robbery. He’s doing his time at a medium-security Virginia state prison located 137 miles northwest of Johnson City, across the dips and valleys of the Blue Ridge Mountains here in the heart of Appalachia. The cost of supporting and visiting Eddie keeps going up, so Pat makes trade-offs.

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“I would send him money even if it broke me, because I do go without paying some bills sometimes to go see him,” Pat says.

Between gas to make the trip and overpriced sandwiches from the prison vending machine, visiting Bland costs about $50, a strain on her housekeeper’s wages. So she alternates, visiting Eddie one week and sending him money the next.
ceo

JPay CEO Ryan Shapiro in his office north of Miami, Florida.

To get cash to her son, Pat used to purchase a money order at the post office for $1.25 and mail it to the prison, for a total cost of less than $2. But in March of last year, the Virginia Department of Corrections informed her that JPay Inc., a private company in Florida, would begin handling all deposits into inmates’ accounts.

Sending a money order through JPay takes too long, so Taylor started using her debit card to get him funds instead. To send Eddie $50, Taylor must pay $6.95 to JPay. Depending on how much she can afford to send, the fee can be as high as 35 percent. In other states, JPay’s fees approach 45 percent.

After the fee, the state takes out another 15 percent of her money for court fees and a mandatory savings account, which Eddie will receive upon his release in 2021, minus the interest, which goes to the Department of Corrections.

Eddie needs money to pay for basic needs like toothpaste, visits to the doctor and winter clothes. In some states families of inmates pay for toilet paper, electricity, even room and board, as governments increasingly shift the costs of imprisonment from taxpayers to the families of inmates.

“To give him $50, I have to send $70 off my card,” says Taylor, who moved to a smaller apartment on the outskirts of Johnson City in part because of the rising cost of supporting Eddie.

“They’re punishing the families, not the inmates.”

Price of prison

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, the Center for Public Integrity found in a six-month investigation.

Inmates earn as little as 12 cents per hour in many places, wages that have not increased for decades. The prices they pay for goods to meet their basic needs continue to increase.

By erecting a virtual tollbooth at the prison gate, JPay has become a critical financial conduit for an opaque constellation of vendors that profit from millions of poor families with incarcerated loved ones.

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.

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.
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Old 09-30-2014, 06:23 PM   #2
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what happens if theres no one who can send money to these prisoners ?
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Old 10-01-2014, 09:35 AM   #3
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Prisons have reverted back top the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century way of doing things. Inmates were regularly used as a low pay or no pay [slave labor] labor force for TPTB. They used to manufacture everything from license plates to lumber, they also built buildings and infrastructure for little more than the cost of feeding them and the cost of materials. Now, prisoners are paid twenty five cents an hour to run fabric looms, manufacture textiles and garments for uniforms, meat processing plants and more. This is made possible because of the for profit prison companies and their lobbying efforts. It was something along the lines of "we're teaching them how to adapt to a normal life, such as someone that has a real job on the outside." In reality, they are reaping huge margins on cheap labor from a captive audience. In any prison, there is a huge incentive to be able to go and be anywhere besides a 6' X 12' cell. Here in Florida, we have chain gangs and road crews that can be seen picking up trash along the highways and cutting trees/brush from the fence lines along the interstate. These guys are rewarded with some gain-time, frequently they'll get take-out hamburgers and in the case of our local jail, the guard will often buy a package of cigarettes and allow them to smoke one or two during breaks.

That said, I don't have a problem with guys in County that got there by doing some dum-bass thing or another, doing a little bit of work to relieve some of the tensions in the jail, and maybe teach them something about what freedom means by giving them a thing or two as a reward for volunteering. On the other hand, I have a structural problem with federal and state prisons using their populations as a labor pool to generate huge profits. These guys may be true scum of the earth, and not deserving of any special consideration, but that does not mean they can just be exploited for someone else's profit. In addition, should a prisoner exhibit some beneficial skill, or some unique ability that the "system" is able to exploit for big bucks, then the prison system has no motivation to let this guy out of prison, and would then be motivated to create the conditions they need too tack on additional time to his sentence. For example, they could "find" drugs or contraband during a cell search and shazam....ten more years.
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Old 10-01-2014, 01:50 PM   #4
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Thanks for this insight Ancona, its a pretty brutal system yet you seem to have no shortage of 'takers'

I was just curious how those with no friends / family survived ............
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Old 10-01-2014, 02:08 PM   #5
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Some of them don't survive Rblong. Take a look at the rates for suicide within the prison industrial complex and state prison industrial complex for some eye opening stuff. Most jails and prisons have a commissary service, which allows inmates to purchase snacks and the like. Many prisons do not provide any more than a toothbrush and bar of soap for hygiene. This leaves the prisoner a choice between doing completely without, or soliciting a few bucks here and there from relatives/friends to deposit in his prison account, or work for the prison itself. It's a fucked up system that turns a bag of cookies in to a tradeable commodity in the underground prison economy.

Want shampoo?/ Fuck you

Want new underwear? Fuck you too.

Getting beat up and having your food stolen off your plate at mealtime? Fuck you and suck it up.

That's the system. You survive by either joining a prison gang, getting a prison job with the special privileges it may bring, or become somebodies bitch.
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Old 10-01-2014, 03:10 PM   #6
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They sell their bodies for sex. Or other chores- like laundry.
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