News about the JPAY tablet seems to be making the rounds again, even hitting the BuzzFeed wire. The articles have been focused on the special tablets they’ve created to be used in the prison setting (see initial coverage here). We wrote about this critical innovation in prison education some time ago because there’s little doubt about its utility in improving access to education behind prison walls. But while the technology itself is marvelous, there’s an essential flipside to JPAY’s involvement that must be discussed. Because while JPay is pleased to take responsibility for any gains made in prison education due to their innovations, they’re less likely to want to talk about the financial gouging they exact on prisoners and their loved ones–gouging that fundamentally undermines those educational efforts.
Now, I 100% support using these kinds of tablets in the prison setting. However, these articles would have you believe that JPAY is some philanthropic non-profit committed to reducing recidivism through education, but JPAY is a private company. While certainly, as a company, they want to be profitable (and should be), there’s a difference between becoming profitable and profiting off of others; for JPAY, it’s the latter.
Just read this comment from the BuzzFeed article: “JPay doesn’t make money from Lantern beyond the sale of its tablets, and he’s quick to point out that the company is more of an attempt to improve the correctional system than it is a cash cow.” The “Lantern” they’re referring to is a tablet-based education system being implemented at various prisons. A boon for prison education? Absolutely. But the idea that JPay is a company that operates strictly out of the goodness of its own heart is beyond naive and, quite frankly, offensive to the hundreds of thousands of families pushed nearly to bankruptcy by this same “benevolent” company’s fee structure.
This is the same JPay that charges took in revenue of $50 million in 2013, mainly by charging $14 service fees to inmates for whom it takes a month to earn that sum. This is the same JPay claiming ownership over every document transmitted by inmates and those who communicate with them.
Creating technology that can help people is only a benevolent act when it’s done so to benefit others genuinely. I’ll believe JPay is actually concerned with rehabilitation and reducing recidivism when we see them enact policies that stop gouging the very people they claim they want to see succeed.
Published Nov 26, 2015 by Christopher Zoukis, JD, MBA | Last Updated by Christopher Zoukis, JD, MBA on Mar 26, 2023 at 3:01 pm