Incarcerated people and their families are literally a captive market that private companies — with the collusion of the facilities — are all too eager to exploit. We are bringing these practices to light and fighting back.
Below is some of our key research and organizing:
Some children have to pay $1/minute to talk to an incarcerated parent. Why? Because prisons and jails profit by granting monopoly telephone contracts to the company that will charge families the most.
Video calling, a technology that should make it easier for families to stay in touch, is actually being used to eliminate human contact and punish families. Our research provided the first comprehensive national survey of the industry and held the video calling industry’s promised benefits up to the harsh realities faced by families. Now in its fourth year, the campaign to protect in-person visits has achieved a number of important victories.
While many facilities are still stuck in the last century, the growing number of facilities experimenting with electronic messaging are all too often providing incarcerated people and their families a product of questionable value at inflated prices.
Correctional facilities are increasingly using fee-riddled cards to repay people they release — money in someone’s possession when initially arrested, money earned working in the facility, or money sent by friends and relatives. Before the rise of these release cards, people were given cash or a check. Now, they are instead given a mandatory prepaid card, which comes with high fees that eat into their balance. We've helped put this problem on the national agenda, and we've won some early victories.
Private companies have started to market tablet computers to U.S. correctional facilities, ostensibly to provide incarcerated people increased access to recreation, educational services, and communication. But in an analysis of a new contract between prison telecom giant GTL and Colorado state prisons, we find that the tablet provider has structured the deal to exploit, rather than assist, incarcerated people by obscuring important details, incentivizing private interests, and charging exorbitant fees (such as $0.49 per electronic message).
Commissaries present yet another opportunity for prisons to shift the cost of corrections to incarcerated people and their families, often enriching private companies in the process. The fairness of prison commissaries is an essential bread-and-butter issue for incarcerated people, who have only the store’s limited options to choose from when the prison fails to provide them with what they need. In our report, we analyze sales data from three state systems to shed light on this unexamined part of prison life.