A private contractor has been ordered to pay restitution over predatory prison banking practices similar to those exposed in a Center for Public Integrity investigation.
The federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau on Oct. 19 ordered JPay, a company that provides financial services to prisons and jails across the country, to pay a $2 million fine and $4 million in restitution to formerly incarcerated people affected by the scheme.
A 2014 Public Integrity investigation found that JPay was charging incarcerated people exorbitant fees to access their own money via debit cards they were forced to use.
“JPay’s fee-bearing debit release card replaced cash or check options previously offered by state departments of correction,” according to CFPB’s announcement of the fine. “In doing so, JPay charged fees to people being released from prison or jail who often have few resources outside of the balance of their prison or jail trust or commissary accounts. In addition, JPay provided consumers with inaccurate or incomplete information about the fees it assessed.”
“JPay siphoned off taxpayer supported benefits intended to help people transitioning out of the corrections system,” CFPB Director Rohit Chopra said in a press release. “JPay exploited its captive customer base to charge unfair fees that harmed the newly released and their families.”
Under the terms of a consent decree with CFPB, JPay will be prohibited from charging the formerly incarcerated fees to access their own money.
Public Integrity’s 2014 investigation into JPay found that the company was charging families of incarcerated people fees of as much as 35% to 45% to send them money.
JPay released a statement on Tuesday when contacted by Public Integrity, saying it “is pleased to have reached a settlement with the CFPB that corrects past practices related to electronic funds transfers and provides redress to impacted individuals.” JPay and its parent company, Aventiv Technologies, “cooperated fully with the CFPB,” it said, in keeping with a new strategy of “working collaboratively with regulators, reforming certain past business practices, and making products and services more affordable and accessible.”
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