In my last post about inmate service companies (see Are You Being Served?), I introduced you to a handful of small companies catering to the specific needs of inmates. This week in the series I’m introducing you to some of the large players involved. The most prominent of these large companies are Global Tel Link (GTL), CorrLinks, and JPay. Each company contracts with dozens of states providing electronic services to prisoners in state and federal facilities. I first mentioned these three companies in my 9/23/19 post Captured Clientele.
Corrlinks primarily provides electronic services to inmates in federal facilities. Services are accessed via permanent stand alone kiosks (known as TRULINCS computers) that have been set up in community areas of the cell blocks. Corrlinks offers fee based email services and everything from a custom catalog of online video rentals to games and music. The suite of electronic services offered by Corrlinks is comprehensive, and similar to that of GTL and JPay.
A popular Corrlink service amongst federal prisoners is that of news, emailed directly to inmate TRULINCS accounts. A few of the more popular news services are:
*Prison News Service, with a wide variety of topics and articles delivered multiple times weekly. The subject matter is of particular interest to those in the federal system (prisonerresource.com).
*Leading Edge Research Team, (2701 Mall Drive, STE 7-140, Florence, AL 35650, leadingedgeresearchteam.com), which is a service that is tailored to keeping federal inmates abreast of recent developments in the Supreme Court and the federal courts.
*The Law Offices of Jeremy Gordon, (P.O. Box 2275, Mansfield, TX 44857, gordondefense.com), is affiliated with prisology.org, a non-profit, and produces a weekly newletter that provides legal analysis on topics important to federal inmates.
GTL is a nationwide services company that began by providing collect calling services to inmates at county jails and state prisons. Rates range from $.05 to several dollars per minute, with long distance calls within the continental United States costing upward of $20.00 for 15 minutes.
In recent years GTL has expanded into similar services as that of Corrlinks and JPay, and here in Ohio we have access to both GTL and JPay services.
GTL issues Ohio inmates *free* 10″ Android based tablets (which you return at the end of your sentence) that run a proprietary GTL app. Of course, these tablets are worthless unless you plan to use their services such as movie rentals, wireless phone calling, and streaming music to name a few. And like Corrlinks and JPay, their services are expensive.
GTL’s platform is very good. They have onsite technical assistance here at the institution, and the GTL services we have access to seldomly have issues. For those rare times when there are, GTL promptly credits you for services lost. I had a pair of headphones (issued with the tablet) that worked poorly, and GTL exchanged them here on site no-questions-asked for a new pair. I had purchased a month of streaming music, and there was a 24 hour period where the service went out and GTL automatically credited my music account for the missing time. In all fairness, I am aware of stories by inmates in other states that have had terrible issues with GTL. However, this is not my experience nor do I know of anyone here that is disappointed.
JPay on the other hand is a different story. This company is based in Florida and is owned by Securus, Inc. JPay primarily serves prisoners in state facilities with electronic services similar to those offered by its competitors GTL and CorrLinks. Like Corrlinks, JPay has installed permanent stand alone kiosks in the dayroom areas of the housing units. Through these kiosks, inmates in Ohio have access to a comprehensive suite of electronic services including:
*Skype like video visitation service
*30 second video messaging
*personal photo attachments for outbound emails
*7″ 4th generation Android tablets running a secure JPay app
*free open source e-books
*30 minute batched humor videos of various subject matter from the Internet
* monthly fee subscription to AP news
*limited quantity of free Khan Academy videos and public domain videos from places like NASA and the University of California
*non-streaming music sold individually or by album
*reality T.V. series rentals
*T.V. series rentals
*and accessories like clear rubber foldable keyboards, adapters, and chargers.
Everything I just mentioned, unless otherwise stipulated, costs money–a lot of money. To illustrate, what is free in the form of Skype in the free world, costs $10.00 for 30 minutes, a 30 second video message (free to record and send in the free world) attached to an email costs between $.60 and $1.50. Games that are often free online, cost between $4.99-$10.99 through JPay. AP news articles (again free online) cost $5.00 a month for 30 days of service, and the movies and video series available for rent are 48 hour time based indivdual rentals with movies costing $6.99. Individual episodes from T.V. series cost $2.99. Music is $1.99. The obsolete Android based 7″ tablets are sold to us for $140.00. All prices quoted require tax to be added.
In my opinion, of these three companies JPay’s service is by far the WORST. I cannot buy anything from them without first agreeing to a TOS that stipulates I accept purchases at my own risk with no promise of refund or credit. Their 30 minute video visitation service, wonderful when it works, is plagued by glitches. Rarely am I able to receive 30 minutes of paid video time with family without the sound dropping or video freezing for prolonged periods. Interestingly, this is the only service they quickly refund or issue credit for. I’m guessing it’s because our outside visitors actually pay for this service and interact with JPay when there’s issues–not us inmates.
I’ve had music, video, and game files frequently fail to download due to system glitches or due to files being corrupted. I recently sought assistance from customer services about a game I had purchased that wouldn’t load onto my new tablet (which I paid $140.00 to replace the previous one. The software crashed and JPay said I had to buy the new tablet as my only option). They answered my game inquiry by citing their TOS to me–so sad, too bad buddy. There is no genuine concern for their customers or their families. I recently received email from JPay instructing us inmates NOT to buy their music as they could not guarantee you would receive what you paid for, citing an issue with their vendor. Say what? Only a business whose customers are captive and have no choice but to accept their terms could ever get away with stuff like this.
Frankly, the issue is JPay, not their vendors. The company has been poorly managed for so long that a general search of BBB’s in major cities in states where JPay operates reveals a history of complaints.
JPay is aware of their shortcomings. JPay recently announced that they replaced their CEO with new leadership pledging to tackle these issues and to right the ship. I’m pessimistic this company can right itself, but time will tell.
GTL, Corrlinks, and JPay are the big players in the inmate services world. Overall, I’d say that these companies provide valuable services in helping prisoners to stay connected with family and friends. Having access to these services and resources eases the burden of incarceration, and as I’ve said before, this is beneficial toward rehabilitation. If you have money, these companies are greatly appreciated.
However, if you are like half of inmates, without funds and relying upon earnings of $21.00 a month working a prison job, these companies amount to background noise because you can’t afford them.
*Do you know someone who has used these services? Perhaps you’ve used them yourself and you’ve experienced GTL, JPay or Corrlinks first hand? If you have, share this post freely.