Prepaid Prison Cards Add to Inmate’s Debt to Society

by Ben Jackson 0

The Centerfor Public Integrity says that prisoners are being taken advantage of bythe prepaid cards they are issued when they are released.

Michigan is one of at least 15states where prisoners are given their inmate account balance on a prepaid cardwhen they are released. The cards usually carry a variety of fees that eat awayat the small amount of money most former inmates are left with to restart theirlives. Inmate release cards have drawn criticism from consumer lawyers andfaced litigation in at least two states.

Prepaid cards can offer advantages to the inmates and jailsby removing cash from the system, which helps to prevent fraud and theft. Butthe devil is in the details for the inmates and prisons. While there may besome enhanced security and monitoring on the cards due to the population ofcardholders and use case, the card could quickly become a liability for theprogram sponsors if the implementation is done poorly. As the article notes,the sponsors of the prison pay programs have a captive audience.

The struggle with any prepaid card is making the programprofitable for everyone in the value chain, including the cardholders. Volumeand revenue and intangible benefits all need to be balanced for this to happen.

Overview by Ben Jackson, Director of the Prepaid Advisory Service for Mercator Advisory Group

Read full story at the Center for Public Integrity