Criminal Justice

High charges for prisoner services spur profits for business and governments

Private investment firms are investing in prison-related businesses that charge as much as $5.95 for a money transfer and 33 cents for an email.

Businesses such as Global Tel-Link and JPay provide phone, Internet and banking services to prisoners and their loved ones, the New York Times reports. The companies profit in operations that are often untouched by consumer regulations, while state and local governments profit by taking a cut of the revenues.

Several inmates have filed suits challenging the high fees. Meanwhile, the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice has filed a petition seeking lower in-state rates on jailhouse calls; the current charge for an in-state 15-minute call is $8.50. The charge in New York, which doesn’t take a cut of the phone profits, is only 72 cents.

Prisoner rights advocates achieved a victory when they lobbied for lower rates on interstate phone calls from prisons. The Federal Communications Commission responded with a rate cap of 25 cents a minute.

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