Should prisoners have to use JPay?

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Securus Technologies is the parent private company of JPay technologies that offers a wide variety of services for inmates and released convicts. Many states already mandate inmates to use JPay in one form or another and thereby have created a government-granted monopoly of inmate technology services and payment services in prisons.

While giving JPay the exclusive privilege to operate the services of money transfers and release cards does alleviate government costs, by making JPay the only company inmates and convicts can use, the company has already begun to abuse its powers—raising wire transfer fees, setting monthly mandated fees for release cards, and worst yet freezing funds of released inmates without cause.

JPay technologies is used in more than 33 state prison systems, and Securus offers the technologies in 47 states! The services they offer are costly; in 2014 they generated $405 million in revenue. While the company offers communications via email, photos, video-grams, video-visitation, and digital media products such as eBooks, games, videos, commissary ordering, and education platforms at a substantial cost, the main fees they charge that are extremely profitable come from wire transfer fees and fees on electronic debit release cards, roughly accounting for 72 percents of JPay’s revenue.

Securus continues to grow. In 2017, it acquired GovPayNet, which processes credit and debit card payments for court fines, bail, traffic tickets, and real estate and property tax. There have been a handful of complaints against JPay, most famously those of former inmate Joe Judy Reyes, who encountered a series of difficulties using his release card and ultimately had his account closed, resulting in the loss of several hundred dollars. Given the uncertain experiences of Reyes and other users, the use of JPay should be optional but not mandated.

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