Last August, Florida's prison system announced that it was switching digital music providers and would be wiping out the $11.2 million worth of music that it had sold inmates -- music they'd paid for at $1.70/track, nearly double the going rate for music when not purchased from prison-system profiteers.
The move was part of a switch to notorious prison contractors Jpay (previously), a division of the even-more-notorious Securus company (previously). Jpay is the company that gouges prisoners and their families for emails and calls, selling them absurd "digital postage stamps" and crazy transaction fees for prepaid commissary accounts.
Now, 74 year old South Florida Reception Center inmate William Demler has filed a class-action suit against the Florida Department of Corrections, backed by the nonprofit Florida Justice Institute and the Social Justice Law Collective. Josh Glickman from the SJLC called the change in providers a "confiscation of these individuals’ lawfully purchased property for no reason other than to turn a profit."
The suit describes how the Corrections Department advertised heavily to inmates, a literal captive audience, encouraging them to buy vastly overpriced, underpowered $100 MP3 players and music to go with them, saying that they would "always own" the music they bought.
If certified, the class could be sprawling in scale. Inmates filed grievances about the mp3 program so frequently that the Department of Corrections created a separate category in December 2017 to track hundreds of related grievance appeals at the administrative level.
The fallout from the media player contract is one example of how inmates are often on the losing end in the Department of Corrections’ various dealings with the private companies that do profitable business in state prisons. The department, meanwhile, has positioned itself to generate more cash than ever. Commissions from its JPay contract are spiking and its prison canteens are bringing in about $35 million or more per year.
Florida prisoners could form class action to demand refund on confiscated media players and files [Ben Conark/Jacksonville.com]