Recently, a company called JPay signed a contract with the New York Department of Corrections to give the people incarcerated there free tablets. The Prison Policy Initiative decided asked an important question about this contract that the lawmakers didn’t: “What would motivate a company to give away 52,000 tablet computers for free?” What they discovered was that the free tablets were part of a larger “bundled services” contract for JPay.
In this arrangement, JPay will take over providing services such as banking, email, and video chat, adding exorbitant fees wherever they could. Some egregious examples include charging 35 cents for an e-mail “stamp” in order to send a single message, or forcing people to pay “inactivity” fees when they don’t use their debit card funds fast enough. JPay expects to net close to $9 million over five years in these fees, directly from the people least able to pay them.