Report: Jpay to make millions off free tablets for NYS inmates

Posted at 12:57 PM, Feb 16, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-16 13:08:17-05

The company willing to provide New York State's 52,000 inmates with tablets at no cost to the state or taxpayers expects to make nearly $9 million off of inmate transactions over the next five years.

The Syracuse Post-Standard obtained and reviewed a copy of JPay's contract with the NYS Department of Corrections and Community Supervision. According to that contract, JPay predicts it will make $8.8 million dollars by August 2020.

Here's how it will work. The tablets will be loaded with free educational content and access to services that would allow inmates to file grievances or learn about the Prison Rape Elimination Act. But inmates can also use the tablets to purchase things like ebooks, music and videos, and to communicate with family and friends when connected to special kiosks.

The Syracuse Post-Standard learned JPay will charge inmates for every email they send or receive, and the cost will depend on whether there are any attachments. Inmates pay for the emails using "stamps."

According to the Syracuse Post-Standard, one "stamp" costs $0.35 and permits inmates to write an email of up to 5,000 characters. Attaching a picture requires an additional stamp, and attaching a 30-second video requires four stamps.

Inmates will also be able to purchase entertainment, and the Post-Standard found the cost of things like songs, games and movies averages about double what you would pay to download them outside of prison.

Lastly, the Syracuse Post-Standard found that JPay will charge inmates and their families fees to transfer money into the inmates' commissary accounts. The amount of the fee will be based on the amount of money transferred and whether the transfer is completed online or over the phone.

State corrections officials say they believe using the tablets will help inmates stay in touch with their families and be better prepared to reenter into the community.

The tablets have sparked debate since the program was announced. Many are critical of the program, but some say it can give inmates an opportunity to better adapt when they get out of prison.