More and more often, it falls to families of prison inmates to pick up the rising cost of basic items like toiletries and winter clothes. Adding to the squeeze, private companies often charge exorbitant fees to send the money.
In 12 years, JPay Inc. has taken over much of the market for sending money to prisoners — it's now the only option for 450,000 inmates.
JPay shares its profits with prison systems, boosting the costs paid by families and forcing them to choose between sending money and paying their bills.
Some people arrive in jails with negative account balances thanks to fees assessed by the prison system. This forces families to pay large sums before their locked-up relative receives any money to spend.
To get funds to incarcerated relatives, families once relied on mailing money orders, a low-cost option. Since JPay took over financial services in many prisons, money orders are slower and families feel pressured to use a higher-fee option offered by JPay.