Posted by : Halima Khait Monday, October 13, 2014

Has anyone else heard about this JPay scandal that is ripping off the families of inmates nationwide? Apparently there has been some focus on it for the last year or so, but it didn't reach my radar until I ran across The Center for Public Integrity's feature story, Prison bankers cash in on captive customers. It follows the story of a woman, Pat Taylor, and many other families like her, who because of fees to send her incarcerated son money, now has to choose between that and going to visit him. She can't afford to do both.

In short, JPay has taken exclusive control of depositing funds into prisoners accounts at most prisons nationwide. But they've made any form of money transfer, such as money orders, so inconvenient that families are pushed into using their high-fee electronic transfer method. The cost to utilize this method can skyrocket up to 35 percent of total amount of money sent in Virginia. It's as high as 45 percent in other states. To make matters more complicated, the funds are put into an account that basically has a lien against it for such things as intake fees. To grasp how problematic this is, think about this - one family in Florida was trying to get underwear to their incarcerated son, but once fees to JPay and the prison were added onto the cost of the underwear, it would have had to send $100. Makes trying to help your family member in need a hassle, right??

To add insult to injury, JPay's CEO Ryan Shapiro basically holds the belief that despite $50 million in profit last year, the company is largely charging to cover overhead expenses. So this isn't about business, huh?? Except that according to CNBCs article, The big business of selling apps to prison inmates, America's nearly 320 million people only make up about 5 percent of the world's population, but our prisoners make up 25 percent of people incarcerated worldwide. With 6.94 million people (1 in 35 adults) being supervised by the U.S. adult correctional systems in 2012, it was only a matter of time before someone recognized these intended rehabilitation facilities as cash cows.

Listen, I firmly believe that if a person does something wrong he or she should be punished in hopes of correcting behavior. I even think part of the lesson should involve a portion of the financial burden of doing so falling on the person who did the crime. What I don't agree with is people getting rich off of poor families and calling it justice. Because let's be honest, poor criminals go to prison while rich ones get probation and move on to find new ways of exploiting our consumerist society. And this JPay scam falls right in line with that; they're the real criminals here.

~With ♥ from Halima

What do think it will take for this country to reverse the trend of gaining riches at the expense of the less fortunate?

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