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February 7, 2017

"How States Can Take a Stand Against Prison Profiteers"

The title of this post is the title of this paper newly posted to SSRN and authored by Catherine Elizabeth Akenhead. Here is the abstract:

In recent years, state corrections departments have faced pressure to provide better prison conditions, while simultaneously cutting costs.  Many critics have touted the emergence of privatized prison services as a cost-effective resolution.  However, those services shift the costs on to some of the poorest and most vulnerable consumers, prisoners and their families.  This Note explores how private companies providing prison banking services to state correctional facilities use unfair practices to increase profits.  The umbrella of prison banking services includes deposits into inmate trust accounts, which allow prisoners to purchase necessities, as well as prepaid debit release cards, which are used to return money to prisoners upon release.  This Note describes how certain private companies retain a monopoly on these services, and are awarded contracts based on the amount of commission paid to state correctional facilities.

As a result of paying those commissions and having no incentive to cut costs, private companies drive up their prices and charge consumers exorbitant rates to make deposits or to utilize prepaid cards.  These practices are disproportionately affecting prisoners’ families who provide their incarcerated loved ones with monetary support, as well as released inmates struggling to get back on their feet post-incarceration. Statistically speaking, both of these groups are more likely to be low-income and least able to manage additional financial strain.  This Note proposes state-level legislation to better protect consumers from these abuses and outlines five key provisions that, if adopted, will serve to prevent private companies from increasing their profit margins at the expense of vulnerable consumers.

February 7, 2017 at 11:42 PM | Permalink


Where are the prison advocacy groups? Why can't they file FCC complaints and other regulatory agency complaints? Why can't they file aggregate claims for consumer fraud and get coupons back in settlements?

I got charged $100 for going over cell phone data limits at ATT. I did not get credit when under utilizing data limits. I emailed the FCC and called it unjust enrichment. The Vice President for Legal Affairs at ATT emailed me and tried to call me several times, on my ATT cell phone. I told her I was a represented party in a potential aggregate claim to retrieve her unjust enrichment and to compensate for her fraudulent practices. I could not talk to her. Two months later, ATT announces, Rollover Minutes, no overages anymore. I was too lazy, and forgot about my claim.

Here is the FCC's How To File a Complaint, with advice, and a link to the complaint email.

If someone can provide the prison specifics, I will be glad to do it for them. I would not be lawyer, but an email assistant and a prison snitch against the providers.


Posted by: David Behar | Feb 8, 2017 7:31:56 AM

Good man David, this could help those that have very little money and hope. Whether or not anyone acts on your offer, good job and have a nice day.

Posted by: MidWestGuy | Feb 8, 2017 9:11:53 AM

Funny, Doug, how you don't have much to say over the recidivist drug dealer to whom Obama granted clemency.

Posted by: federalist | Feb 8, 2017 11:07:41 AM

Not sure what you want/expect me to say, federalist. Federal recidivism data shows roughly 1/3 of all released offenders commit future offenses. If only a handful of the many hundreds of drug dealers that Obama released early goes back to drug dealing, I will be pleasantly surprised.

And this is why the "tough-and-tougher" crowd will always have an advantage when we discuss significant clemency grants or any major retroactive sentencing reforms. The law of large numbers ensures that some number of released offenders will not stay on the straight and narrow, and thus opponents of reform can point to their activities to prove more and longer incarceration for everyone produces some public safety benefits. But such arguments, as a smart guy like you knows, prove too much (e.g., why ever release any offender unless/until recidivism rates are zero) and can be problematically facile (e.g., what of the money spent on excessive incarceration instead of hiring more police to prevent crimes).

Posted by: Doug B. | Feb 8, 2017 12:07:19 PM

Fed. I am not defending Prof. Berman's decarceration attitude.

However, you have to overcome the Exception Fallacy argument. All of journalism has that fallacy. All propaganda has it. Go to the David Duke web site. He hates Jews and Blacks. He does not lie. He selects stories that make them look bad, and does not disclose his abuse of the Exception Fallacy, in his basically false allegations, supported by exceptions.

In the context of the criminal law and procedure, all fallacies violate the Fifth Amendment Procedural Due Process Right to a fair hearing. I do not know why defense lawyers are not carrying a check list of Fallacies and demanding the judge exclude these from the hearing. One, they may be stupid. Two, they may be working for the prosecution, as messengers of pleas. Three, they may want to preserve the prosecution's job, and not eradicate their ability to prosecute.


The checklist all defense lawyers should be carrying.


The Rules of Evidence are riddled with them, making them totally lawless, and even embarrassingly stupid. Why otherwise intelligent and educated student do not pound their desks with Mao's Little Red Book, and force a dunce cap on the heads of their law professors is a tribute to the indoctrination power of the lawyer education.

Posted by: David Behar | Feb 8, 2017 12:38:00 PM

Doug, I would have thought that you would have dealt with the fact that one of Obama's clemency guys went back into dealing after he got out without being prompted.

As you well know, my comments about Obama's clemency grants have reflected a fair amount of deference to the process that selected them. I have criticized the whitewashing of previous violent histories by the media and the Administration's fundamental dishonesty in selling the clemencies, but on the merits, I have not been harshly critical. I have also pointed out that a lot of these guys are gun criminals, and Obama is a big-time control guy.

If this is the only guy who meaningfully recidivates (I get that's an imprecise term), then I would agree that his clemencies were probably good, even if some were questionable.

I personally believe that any harsh sentencing regime needs to have a robust clemency regime.

Posted by: federalist | Feb 8, 2017 12:45:10 PM

There is no such thing as a non-violent drug offender. I invite the lawyer to try to sell drugs in the territory of one, or to try to trespass on the Grateful Dead Farm. See what war dogs come to greet him. "Non-violent drug offender" is another lawyer superstition or worse, scam.

Posted by: David Behar | Feb 8, 2017 1:04:15 PM

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