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March 28, 2023

Intriguing new PPI report on "unregulated growth of e‑messaging in prisons"

The Prison Policy Initiative has this new new report authored by Mike Wessler on a paerticular technology in prison titled "SMH: The rapid & unregulated growth of e‑messaging in prisons."  Here is how it begins (with links from the original):

Over the last twenty years, advocates and regulators have successfully lowered the prices of prison and jail phone rates.  While these victories garnered headlines and attention, the companies behind these services quietly regrouped and refocused their efforts.  Seeking different ways to protect their profits, they entered less-regulated industries and offered new products to people behind bars.  One new service in particular — text-based electronic messaging or “e-messaging” — has experienced explosive and unregulated growth.  As a result, rather than living up to its potential as a way to maintain connections between people in prison and the outside world — something that benefits all of us — high costs and shoddy technology have made e-messaging little more than the latest way these companies drain money from incarcerated people and their loved ones.

In 2016, we released a groundbreaking report that took a first look at e-messaging, sometimes — but incorrectly — called “email.”  At that time, the technology was experimental, untested, and viewed skeptically by many correctional administrators.  Since then, though, it has become common inside prison walls.

To better understand this explosive growth in e-messaging, we examined all 50 state prison systems, as well as the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), to see how common this technology has become, how much it costs, and what, if anything, is being done to protect incarcerated people and their families from exploitation.  We found an industry that is in flux, expanding quickly, and has yet to face the legislative and regulatory oversight it desperately needs.

March 28, 2023 at 11:00 AM | Permalink


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