JPay Blog

Prison Privatization, the Public, and JPay

Payout from prison privatizationAs a company that operates in the corrections space, JPay is in the unique position to observe the prevailing trends in the operation and administration of prisons.  One trend that has dominated discourse lately is the privatization of American prisons in an effort to alleviate the cost of running these facilities for state and municipal governments.  Clearly, this has been a polarizing development; many decry the corporatization of incarceration, claiming that privatization is a pathway to “punishment for profit,”  while others cite potential efficiencies that competition and innovation on the open market might usher in.  There are rigid ideologies underpinning each of these positions – hence the polarization – and as a philosophical argument, the relative merits versus drawbacks of privatization may never be reconciled.  In practice, however, there are alternatives to the all-or-nothing prospect of strictly for-profit prisons, or state-run prisons managed with bureaucratic inefficiency.

It is the inefficiency of correctional systems that drives the drumbeat for privatization.  And this inefficiency can be countered with forward-thinking policies and service offerings on the part of correctional agencies.

JPay, at its core, is about providing needed, relevant services to the family and friends of the incarcerated. In many cases, JPay’s solutions relieve the supervising agencies (departments of correction, county sheriff’s offices) of the burden of providing these services themselves.  Electronic funds transfer, for instance, eliminates or partially eliminates the need for corrections staff to post and process physical money orders in order to deposit funds into inmates’ trust accounts.  Inmate email similarly reduces the labor and administrative costs associated with sorting and distributing traditional mail.  Media-based services like video visitation and inmate mp3 players create their own efficiencies (video visitation provides an alternative to visits at the prison, reducing supervisory burdens and decreasing inmate movement; mp3 players contribute to a calmer population) while providing social, rehabilitative, and recidivism-mitigation benefits.

Creating efficiency through technological innovation is the primary benefit enjoyed by correctional agencies that employ JPay’s services, even as those services are designed for the friends and families of inmates.  It is through this creation of efficiency that JPay provides an alternative to prison privatization.

JPay’s services also demonstrate that a free market approach to some aspects of the correctional system need not represent a descent into the corporatization of the penal system.  As a for-profit company, JPay implements a pay-for-service model that relies on friends and family members to pay a fair price for the convenience associated with JPay’s services.  This model is not dependent on increasing incarceration rates, but rather on the relevance and quality of the services provided.  Detractors of privatization are often distracted by the slipperiness of the slope they describe, citing an inherent incentive to grow the prison population; JPay’s communication- and reentry-focused operations stand as a refute to that argument.

Granted, JPay’s business model is just one in a sea of corrections-related vendors and providers.  There may be merit to the charge that private prison operators are incented to keep their prisons full, which leads them to oppose any legislative or social efforts to reduce the incarcerated population (though whether privatization or policy are the chicken or the egg in this scenario is unclear).  Other providers, like commissary companies, may have a different set of incentives altogether.  What JPay does represent, however, is an alternative approach, and an illustration of how technology can drive efficiency even in an industry as rooted in tradition as corrections.

Expanded prison privatization may or may not be the answer for increasingly cash-strapped state and municipal governments.  The argument, however, should be about how to best encourage efficiency in corrections operations, and in that argument, there are many sides.  There are alternatives.



  1. Jessica wombles

    September 7, 2017 - 2:56 am

    My husband is a veteran of the U.S. army. He flashed back I public. We just ran out a stamps. Any donation would bring smile to this family. Best wishes for your loved ones

  2. Jessica wombles

    September 7, 2017 - 2:54 am

    My husband assaulted a civilian due to mental breakdown. He has been in prison since 2015. I just got medical info that has put me outta work. Two minor kids. We miss him. Just used my last stamp.

  3. Frank Rodriguez

    March 2, 2017 - 9:01 am

    being recently released and living in Virginia Beach Va, has been extremely hard. this state does not offer any form of assistance to ex-cons. i was locked up for over 20 years and still am looking for work it has been 4 months. if anyone knows or can steer me in the direction for employment i greatly appreciate it. i was incarcerated in New Jersey

  4. Editor

    December 22, 2014 - 4:05 pm

    Hi Cathy,

    Please visit the following link to see if the JP4® player is available at your loved one’s facility. Please let us know if you have any other questions. Have a nice day and happy holidays!

  5. Editor

    December 22, 2014 - 3:57 pm

    Hi Mary,

    To review your loved one’s account balance in the state of Florida, please call 866-209-7250. Please let us know if you have any other questions. Have a great day!

  6. Editor

    December 22, 2014 - 3:13 pm

    Hi Paiutemom,

    Please contact our customer service at 800-574-5729, and they will be able to help you

  7. cathy limes

    September 23, 2014 - 4:35 pm

    i would like to buy my son a mp4 player but I don’t know if the prison that he is in has approved them or not. I need to know who I contact for this information, thank you

  8. Mary

    June 12, 2014 - 1:52 pm

    how can I see how much he has used of the money I put on his commissary. At Orlando reception center. No phone calls yet

  9. Daniel Minchew

    January 4, 2014 - 6:29 am

    First i have been on both sides of the fence,trust me private prisons are NOT the answer.Drug rehab. would go a long way because about 80%(i believe)of inmates are there because of drugs,because of or trying to obtain them,i know!And one more thing the reason prisons are overcrowded is because you now go to prison for almost anything.(fact)Just wanted to add my 2 cents worth.

  10. paiutemom

    November 28, 2013 - 12:04 am

    How does one go about “tracking” $$ sent thru J-Pay? 45 days have past and my son still hasn’t acknowledged it! Any suggestions?


    October 24, 2013 - 6:38 am

    I am grateful for this blog because I learn about the issues families and their incarcerated loved ones are facing. My husband is in prison here in Ohio for a crime he did not commit and we have been taken advantage of by a number of lawyers who refused to do their job because my husband is intelligent and will not accept the careless filings they attempt to submit to the judge. I just found out that Ohio’s Department of Corrections has now decided that family members who do not use contracted cellphones such as Verizon or Sprint, cannot set up prepaid phone accounts so they can keep in touch with their loved ones. If anyboby knows where to start the fight against this assault on families, please let me know. May Jesus Chhrist

  12. Cheryl Renfro

    August 7, 2013 - 2:06 am

    Will you PLEASE try to get Tn DOC onboard with the music players!!! It would cut down on so much tension & fighting which has lead to units being on lockdown in some cases up to a month at a time! Why should a couple of guys make ALL suffer that wouldn’t do ANYTHING to lose visits and/or phone calls!! The Wardens DO NOT understand that when our loved ones are sentenced, the family gets the Same Sentence as well!!! Thank you JPay!!

  13. Marcia

    July 8, 2013 - 3:06 pm

    Just do a Google search on Private Prisons and you will see headlines of riots, horror stories, terrible health care. Some states have closed them down the conditions are so bad, and since they make money from the number of inmates they hold, there is no incentive for release or to decrease incarceration at all. It is time to FIGHT privatization of Prisons. There ARE alternatives to incarceration. And states with life sentences with no chance of parole WILL PAY in health care costs whether private or government run.

  14. Toni

    May 12, 2013 - 6:50 am

    Thanks for allowing me to send emails.
    Because SO MANY LETTERS GET RETURNED FOR NO LAJET REASON!!! I assume its easier to rtn than sort file deliver.
    Each full page costs a stamp approx .65 and my Son gets it within a DAY instead of a week if at all.
    I must admit its costly to put $ on his books but money orders take 2wks plus & should one get lost it costs money to trace when with JPay everything is trackable.
    Thanks, Tims Mom, high desert

  15. Dimples

    May 7, 2013 - 8:23 pm

    Thank JPay! My aunt will get to see her son! He was just given another 5yrs! She is in her 70’s w/poor health! Thank you!

  16. BonnieB

    April 30, 2013 - 7:25 pm

    Many thanks to you JPay for being our Lifeline while my husband is away at CCI! Thanx BonnieB

  17. Paula

    April 15, 2013 - 2:21 pm

    Thank you JPay, I am one that appreciates the service.

  18. A

    March 28, 2013 - 8:50 am

    I didn’t read all of this completely but I can tell you privatization is awful. My BF is sitting in a privatized prison in ohio and it’s a nightmare. The reports coming out of there and the things I’m told are awful. The safety of the prisoners is at risk, the safety of the staff, and the town it’s in as well.

    They fake fixing things after being told and then it’s back to square one. Their excuse, it’s growing pains. When beatings and crime inside have risen almost 200% in less than 2 years (and that’s prisoner on prisoner), enough to keep me awake at night scared for him.

    The claim Gang activity is down. It’s not, they claim that and show it because they don’t file it in that fashion.

    There’s not enough for them to do. They took some of shared spaces that should have been for activities and added more beds.

    They have had infractions for the filth, the food, you name it. Privitazation is for the birds.

    Oh and all the money it’s supposed to make the state, well according to these reports, the state isn’t making it because the prison keeps getting nailed with thousands in fines for their infractions. So, what’s the point. I want my man safe … he isn’t!

    It’s bad enough he was railroaded in the first place, but now he’s stuck in this crazy place that is waiting to implode.

    Jpay … thanks for trying to make it easier for all of us. My guess is all of the other wonderful services you have will never land in this prison. I hope so for the men and women that have to be on the inside and for all of us on the outside.

    Unfortunately, even though your services are great, there are times (like now) when it’s a week or more before they are even handed their emails or mail. Let alone have the chance to tell us they are safe.

    Prayers for safety for all of this sites loved ones.

  19. Marsha Bates

    March 16, 2013 - 9:06 am

    Kudo’s to Jpay for accomplishing the impossible.
    I bought my son the new mp4 player, then added money to his regular acount and put money in a music account. The cost of depositing money in these two accounts was $13.00, which would have been better appreciated in his account or left in mine.
    Thank you for last weeks notification that a family only need deposit funds in the main acount and giving the inmate the ability to transfer to his music account.
    AND a big shout out to you for actually cutting the cost of money transfers in half. No more $6.50 a pop but a nice $3.50.
    Thanks again Jpay for listening to what families are asking for.
    Unfortunately in the sanctity of our court system as well as our well oiled penal institutions, innocent family members are treated just like the inmates.
    So Boo Hiss to those individuals who find it necessary to judge.
    High five Jpay for your help.

  20. Ellon

    February 22, 2013 - 2:01 pm

    I would like to say thank you to jpay as well. I live 900 miles away from where my son is incarcerated at and jpay allows us to communicate through only the email right now. I am not able to put money on his books anymore because of a block that was placed on my sons (inmate) account due to some other family members disputing a payment. Jpay is certainly helping us all, I only pray that their system is enhanced to only block those who actually dispute payments and not the inmate. God Bless

  21. RLS

    February 9, 2013 - 1:13 am

    I had no idea that these things were happening. I had no idea about privitization. I agree, it is a very, very bad thing. I’m literally sick to my stomach after reading some of these posts. My heart goes out to all of you. I applaud the overall caring, tact, diplomacy and class that was used in almost every post I read. My brother is in Albion, PA. I’m fortunate enough to be able to send him money and use Jpay. At first, I saw JPay in a negative way. After reading this blog and getting educaton, and the Jpay article that helped open this up for discussion, I just want to say thank you Jpay and all of you. Agreed, a lot of work needs to be done. I wish these comments had a “like” feature.

  22. JDay

    October 28, 2012 - 3:22 pm

    I would like to say thank you for all the encouragement and the issues from loved ones that we as families have to go through. My son is in Florida and barely gets enough to
    eat and because he is a first time offender he is in a community dorm, (praise God) but
    these dorm men who are light offenders have no recreation time, very little portions of food and are rudiculed for being light offenders. It is very hard for them to understand why when the murderers are next door and get to go outside to play have tv and dvd and basketball but this is one of the private camps and believe me I have had to pay just to keep my son fed and we share with other unfortunate inmates. I pray daily for this group of men who are just trying to do their time and move on in life. But I can tell you first hand that this section that is private provides less to our inmates than the state provided. They feel that we as family members can feed them but then they restrict us from ordering only once a quarter..the inmates depend on the money I try to put on his books to pay for their food at the canteen. I am sad to say I am very disappointed and hear it in my son’s voice that they are being treated with such disrespect because they are light offenders. I dont know where to get help as I am singe and almost retirement age but thank you all for your words..God Bless

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