Prisons Switch Device Providers; Render $11.3 Million Of Inmate-Purchased Music Worthless

from the fucked-up dept

Yet again, when it comes to digital goods, you don’t own what you buy. Inmates in Florida’s prison system are learning this fact of life, thanks to a change in jail “entertainment” providers.

In April last year, the Florida Department of Corrections struck a deal with JPay. The private company, spearheading a push to sell profit-driven multimedia tablets to incarcerated people across the country, would be allowed to bring the technology to every facility in the nation’s third-largest prison system.

But there was a catch.

Inmates had already been purchasing electronic entertainment for the last seven years — an MP3 player program run by a different company: Access Corrections. For around $100, Access sold various models of MP3 players that inmates could then use to download songs for $1.70 each. Inmates could keep them in their dorms.

The demand was clear. More than 30,299 players were sold, and 6.7 million songs were downloaded over the life of the Access contract, according to the Department of Corrections. That’s about $11.3 million worth of music.

Because of the tablets, inmates will have to return the players, and they can’t transfer the music they already purchased onto their new devices.

The corrections system is switching to JPay. Unfortunately, nothing else is switching. Money isn’t easy to obtain in prison, meaning most of this suddenly useless music was purchased with funds from friends and family at inflated prices. The prison system comes out of it OK. It has collected $11.3 million on the sale of worthless infinite goods to a literally captive audience.

Now, with a lucrative JPay contract in effect, inmates are out millions of dollars in digital goods. The only options to keep what they purchased means shelling out more cash for the opportunity to put their purchased music completely out of reach.

The Department of Corrections negotiated an extension with Access Corrections to allow inmates to keep their MP3 players until January 23, 2019 if they choose not to participate in the tablet program.

Manderfield, the department spokesman, said that a department code prohibits inmates from owning more than one MP3 player at a time, but even without that, inmates would be able to keep the players because the contract is ending and there would be no way to service them.

Once returned, the inmates can pay a $25 fee to have their device unlocked or their music downloaded onto a CD before being shipped out to a non-prison address.

All of this stupidity is made possible by greed, greed, and more greed. First, the move to JPay gives Florida prisons even more money: $2.75 every time someone adds money to a JPay account, as well as a cut of any new content sold to inmates for the new devices. This has already resulted in $3.9 million in commissions over a twelve-month period covering April 2017 to March 2018.

The music end involves greed as well. Licensing is a nightmare, thanks to the endless meddling of music labels and performance rights organizations. An MP3 should be able to travel to any other device that supports that format, but it never does (especially not if the devices are controlled by an outside contractor). Licensing fees paid by Access Corrections apparently don’t cover transfers of infinite goods to devices produced and sold by someone else. JPay handles its own licensing and even if it covers much of the purchased music, that’s just not acceptable to everyone up the line waiting with their hands out.

People who don’t have much money or any way to earn much of it are out $11.3 million. The prison gets paid. The service contractors get paid. The labels and PROs get paid. Everyone comes out of this fine except for the people who paid for the goods. If they want to “own” more music, they’ll be paying everyone else twice for something they bought.

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Companies: access corrections, jpay

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Comments on “Prisons Switch Device Providers; Render $11.3 Million Of Inmate-Purchased Music Worthless”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

$$$ ….. Little have none.

Unless you find an attorney willing to do pro bono, but I doubt that many will find such a person and therefore said peons will not be able to seek justice in a court of law.

The corp is better off because there are no law suits from poor little people as opposed to one huge one with big time lawyers and don’t forget the accompanying public exposure of your dirty laundry.

ShadowNinja (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Because the cost of a few dozen songs is far less then the cost of a lawsuit 99.9999% of those people won’t be filing lawsuits.

That’s what the cell phone company that won a SCOTUS ruling on the subject was counting on when they falsely advertised ‘free’ phones, and then charged people over $30 for that phone on their monthly phone bill (the bill were state taxes they didn’t mention weren’t covered in their ‘free’ phone).

Anonymous Coward says:

Slavery was never abolished

Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

Translation: You can have all the slave labour you want, providing that you first get a rubber-stamped conviction and brand them as criminals.

And then, when they’re not working for you, you can make money off of them in whatever other ways you can think of.

If anything, prisons should make money off of rehabilitation, so that the less recidivism they see, the more funding they get. Instead, prisons have a perverse incentive to keep their inmates offending after release, to keep the money flowing in: from the money to house them, from the money from work programs, from the money for music scams and phone scams and everything else.

Imprisonment for profit is a horrible idea, and should be ended.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

You don’t own what you purchased, so we took it away & demand you buy it again.

Outside of prison, I can rip mp3’s of CDs I own… (as the RIAA screams) and I can DL music purchased from online sites to any of my devices… They claim they can’t give it to the prisoners… yet are shipping a CD or the unlocked device as long as it is outside of prison.

I’m confused how the tablets were acceptable in the prison & suddenly now that they can triple dip again they can’t keep them.

Anonymous Coward says:

But they’re criminals! They don’t or at least shouldn’t have any rights! You just ask those in charge of the prisons and who are milking the same system, under ‘legal rip off’ methods, the same system that put the ‘criminals’ where the are and complain about them doing nothing legal when released!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

You assume they all actually did what they are/were accused of doing? This is not the case.

A large majority of inmates are there because they took a plea bargain, it was the only option available to them even tho they did nothing wrong. Fight the charges and you end up serving more time than the so called “bargain” because the public defender is intentionally underfunded and over worked thus resulting in their inability to adequately defend those in need of an attorney. This is by design, the private prison corporations make money by imprisoning any and all they possibly can. Campaign contributions keep the “law ‘n order” politicians in charge of the district attorneys office thus perpetuating the horrific and disgusting situation.

Oh yeah – and prisoners still have rights dumbass.

Nurlip (profile) says:

Reform. The goal of prisons.. at some point in the past. Any inmate who is released after this kind of (financial/pychological) abuse and still capable of believing that the elitest corporate class is capable of fair play is probably a saint. More likely, those released will only rebel harder against the ‘system’ creating more problems that utimately affect the majority with almost zero consequence for the elites. It’s so neat and tidy, it almost seems as though it were by design.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: "You could, you know, stay out of prison."

Our criminal system has:

A 100% indictment rate.

A police system that favors easy arrests on small infractions that can be inflated into large prison sentences, over dangerous, violent targets that commit serious crimes (murder, robbery, rape, human trafficking, etc.)

A blue code of honor that not only lets police lie in court habitually but then pressures their brethren to back up those lies.

Numerous law enforcement agencies desperate to justify their immense staff and budgets now that crime has plummeted since the 20th century (largely correlating with municipal unleaded-gasoline mandates). Entrapment of folks with mental disorders by coercive sting operations is popular with the FBI, for example.

A politically ambitious mostly-white, -male staff of district prosecutors that are merited by the number of convictions they secure by any means.

Elected / Appointed judges who campaign on tough on crime positions. (Tough on crime usually means tough on impoverished and marginalized groups. Voters love it and vote on it consistently.)

An understaffed, underpaid, overworked public defense team.

A 90% conviction rate.

A schedule of disproportionate mandated minimum sentences for even minor crimes (e.g. possession).

A legal system so complex and byzantine that the typical American commits three felonies a day.

A Supreme Court ruling that forgives the police for not knowing the laws they enforce, or the protocols they have to follow to protect the rights of the pubic, and yet doesn’t similarly forgive the public.

No means or interest in confirming convictions. Inmates who secure evidence that exonerate themselves have a bitch of a time getting a judge to hear it, and another arduous climb getting their wardens to let them go on the merits of their case.

Forensic tools (drug tests, Trick Pony detection dogs) with high false positives that courts often decide are good enough for conviction.

A for-profit private prison system that penalizes the state when it’s not nearly full.

Impacted prisons that often don’t have enough rooms for their inmates, often resorting to turning common rooms into bunks.

A higher incarceration rate (per capita) than any other nation in the entire world. America is number one!

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