Fees vary, but at the Southern Idaho Correctional Facility, it costs two “stamps” to send or receive a videogram like the one sent by Vanlith, with five stamps available for purchase for $2. It may not seem like much, but remember that even incarcerated people who can work behind bars are paid very little.
Jesse Crosson, who served 19 years for robbery and shooting two people and now answers questions about prison life on his TikTok account @second_chance, railed against JPay in several videos. In a video titled “Prison profiteer”, Crosson said he and his family each spend more than $20 a month on JPay email stamps — a huge fraction of the $54 a month he earned from his prison job. Her middle-class family could help support her, but not everyone is so lucky. “The problem is that someone is profiting from every phone call, every email and every bar of soap sold, and that disproportionately affects those who have the least,” Cronson said.
“[JPay] are just a small piece of the multi-billion dollar prison industrial complex in this country,” Crosson said in another video.
A JPay spokesperson said it could not provide a full statement before publication. “We acknowledge the criticisms we receive, but please also review the positive elements of our tablet program,” spokeswoman Jade Trombetta wrote in a brief email, sharing a link to a Yahoo article on JPay’s parent companyAventiv Technologies.
Vanlith told the Statesman she’s had more than 500 new contacts since her videos exploded, but Idaho Department of Corrections spokesman Jeff Ray told the paper people should think twice. before becoming a prison correspondent.
“While many penpal-type relationships are well-intentioned,” Ray said, “those who choose to engage in them — including those who are incarcerated — should beware.”