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Financial exploitation of Florida’s inmates and families has to stop PDF Print E-mail
Written by Gilbert L. Raiford   
Wednesday, 09 October 2013

gilbert-raiford-web.jpgIt was Marquis De Sade who brilliantly observed, “The knavery of the rich justifies the thievery of the poor.” You will not find a better example of this statement than what exists in the Florida state prison system. It is not enough that unscrupulous money-hungry leeches have commercialized our penal institutions by seeking to privatize the prisons but, bit by bit, and without public outcry, they are gnawing away at every other source of prison-related income.

There are possibly more but I will name only the three most obvious:

• Corrilink: This is a commercialized email system that exploits inmates and their families. On the pretext of providing a great social service, Corrilink charges exorbitant fees. It seems to me that if the prison system were in favor of inmates corresponding via email, it would be decidedly cheaper to provide Department of Correction computers and permit usage at a non-inflated rate.

It is my understanding that the inmates pay both to send and receive a message. The rates vary from five to 30 cents a message. If the institution decides not to let an inmate send or receive the message, the pay is not refunded. Pure and simple exploitation.

• Prison telephone calls: Until the Federal Communications Commission finally acquiesced to the bombardment of complaints a few months ago, these prison-contracted phone companies were charging inmates and their family as much a $1 per minute plus a $3.95 connection charge.

The new rate is 25 cents per minute, still very much inflated, and the connection charge has remained unchanged. (Compare this to the six cents per minute to call Mexico and four cents a minute to call Argentina using commercial carriers. There are other international calls that cost as little as one cent per minute and there is no connection fee.) Pure and simple exploitation.

• JPay: Until a month ago, sending money to an inmate was a tedious process but relatively inexpensive. That has now changed – except for the tedious part. JPay is a Miami based company that has cornered the prison money-sending market.

JPay has an online pay system that charges $5 to send $5, meaning that if a relative can afford only to send $5, he or she must send $10, of which $5 will go to JPay and 50 cents to the Department of Corrections; only $4.50 will be given to the inmate. When I complained about this to the Department of Corrections, I was told that money could still be sent the traditional way using a deposit slip. But the department no longer issues the deposit slips and suggested that I get one from JPay.

It is not to Jpay’s financial advantage to issue deposit slips and it refers the callers to its website. I could not find a link on the website from which to download a deposit slip. It must be there somewhere but it is not easily accessible. Pure and simple exploitation.

It is not to the Department of Corrections’ advantage to seek out a more reasonable means of privatizing its services. It is my understanding that the department gets a healthy “concession fee” when contracting out these services and, therefore, is not as interested in fairness to the consumers as it is in increasing its own revenue.

When individual government officials get such a fee, it is referred to as an illegal kickback for which a prison sentence is in order. It seems to me that social justice requires that a similar deterrent be imposed on governmental agencies – and especially one whose mandate is to assist in meting out justice.

In spite of our often touted Judeo-Christian Ethic, we remain unmoved by the reality that “the poor pay more.”

*Gilbert L. Raiford is a retired social worker who has had a long career in teaching and working for the U.S. Department of State. He may be reached at:  This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

Comments (2)Add Comment
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written by Mark Schuler, September 26, 2013
As someone who works in the corrections industry I can say that it is more expensive for companies to offer services to those housed in the various detention facilities. The telephones, for example, have to have special equipment installed that monitors the phone calls, do voice pattern recognition to ensure that the correct inmate is using the phone account, that the friend or family member isn't relaying the call to another phone number, record the calls and in some cases transcribe them into text to be searchable, and store the calls for months or years. All of that "extra" work they do to facilitate the security required is expensive. The 5-cent per minute commercial long distance doesn't have to do any of that and they are also not providing the telephones that their customers are using. The telephone vendor also has to pay for and maintain the telephones in the jail (the DOC doesn't pay for that). They have to keep staff available to repair those phones within certain timeframes (usually a few hours after DOC notifies them of a problem). Those phones see a lot of use, and abuse, and need constant attention to repair. Add to that the fact that a relatively high percentage of credit card payments for service are fraudulent and you can begin to see why that 25-cent rate that the FCC is imposing makes sense. Has there been some waste and abuse in the corrections services industry? Absolutely. Will it continue? Undoubtedly, and more steps will need to be taken at appropriate points to correct for it. Is it more cost-effective than each jail trying to come up with their own phone system and run it? You'd better believe it. If companies like GTL, Securus, AmTel, and others were forbidden from providing service to the corrections industry, service levels would plummet and prices would go through the roof because those agencies barely have the resources necessary to staff their facilities and provide for basic security much less provide ancillary services in-house. Outsourcing communications services to outside companies which have a broad base of corrections clients helps to keep costs down and provide an economy of scale that a jail or prison could possibly provide on its own. Those companies are for-profit though, and yes they will make money on providing those services. Is it plain and simple exploitation? No, absolutely not.
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written by Donald Steuernagle, September 26, 2013
This may be a Florida thing. A friend of mine was just released from
The Ohio system. I could not even send money until the prison "met" me. I live in Key West so going to an interview in Ohio to Makl money was out of the question. I found JPay emails to be not expensive and the inmate got a free response. For phone calls, I used Offender Connect. To save money on outrageous long distance, I went to AT&T and bought a cheap go phone on a pay as u go plan. I had researched the prison calling area and I had AT&T give me a phone number with both the area code and prefix for that area. This worked out well. He was charged thru Offebder connect $1.60 for ten minutes and that was it. The hassle in the beginning was worth the money saved.

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