TALLAHASSEE — Faced with in-person visitations slashed in half and an offer to pay for the privilege, a coalition of inmate families and reformers announced Thursday they will fight the Florida Department of Corrections where hurts: in the pocketbook.
The Campaign for Prison Reform said it will boycott a new FDC program that will allow a private company, JPay Inc., to profit off video visitations of inmates when they are used to replace in-person visits.
“We have pocket power. We have financial power,” said Judy Thompson, director of the Forgotten Majority, a Jacksonville-based advocacy group at a press conference outside the Governor’s Mansion on Thursday.
The new prison visitation policy, expected to be implemented this summer, will allow inmates to meet with visitors every other weekend instead of every weekend.
A year earlier, in April 2017, FDC signed a single-source contract with JPay to install multimedia kiosks and tablets for use by inmates no cost to the state. FDC then started encouraging families to replace the in-person time with video conferences, arguing it will be safer and easier to handle because of prison staff shortages.
But the families are pushing back. In addition to boycotting the video visitation program used at the kiosks, the families of the 97,000 inmates will also boycott the JPay program used to transfer money to inmate accounts set up by the Florida Department of Corrections. Rather than letting JPay profit off cash transfers and purchases, families will now send money to the accounts using wire and bank transfers and circumvent the programs, Thompson said.
“That’s going hurt in the groin, where it should,” she said.