“The Cost of Calling My Mom From Prison”

Here’s an interesting recent article from the New York Times by John J. Lennon, currently incarcerated at the Sullivan Correctional Facility in New York State.

On Dec. 20, 2020, Worth Rises, an advocacy group, ran a full-page ad in The New York Times calling on Tom Gores, a businessman whose private equity firm owns Securus, to divest from the company. Beyond JPay, Securus owns phone contracts for many state prisons and county jails across the country. Charges can go as high as $14 for a 15-minute call. Worth Rises opposes any private companies that seek to profit from incarceration. “If Black Lives Matter, what are you doing about Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores?” the ad asked, calling him a prison profiteer.

Several years ago, I interviewed Bianca Tylek, executive director of Worth Rises, about her work campaigning against commercial interests in prisons. I appreciated her passion. I reached out to her again recently and told her that the JPay technology was pretty life-changing in here. No one but JPay was stepping up to provide us this access to technology,I said. Ms. Tylek told me that it was all pretty complicated. “There’s no doubt that there’s a technology gap in prisons and jails,” she said, “But the travesty here is that government agencies are allowing corporations with a long history of predation to fill this gap, largely because they get a cut of the profit and access to data.”