JPay Research Brief

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JPay Research Brief

JPay sells itself as a private company “helping friends and family of inmates stay connected to their incarcerated loved ones through a variety of corrections-related services” Its principal service is the processing of electronic money transfers; however, through its JP4(R) Player, it offers emails, music downloads, games, and video visitation for substantial fees.

JPay claims its electronic money transfers are quicker, more efficient and more security than the system of the past, which often involved loved ones sending money orders through the mail. Yet the fee associated with this was traditionally around $3.00. Under JPay, it is north of $7.00. Furthermore, the fees administered by JPay can reach as high as 35% to 45%.

Why are JPay’s fees so high? Not because it holds a relatively small share and cannot compete with the economics of scale of larger businesses in the industry, but because it maintains a quasi-monopoly over the industry. JPay provides money transfers to more than 70% of the incarcerated persons in U.S. prisons - approximately 1.7 million individuals. More pressingly, nearly 400,000 people are imprisoned in states where there is no “free deposit option”.

There are, however, cheaper competitors within this industry, many of them charging fees closer to $3.00 or 4 or 5 percent. So why does JPay maintain its monopoly despite their presence? In short, states often receive between $0.50 and $2.50 for each payment the company accepts on behalf of their incarcerated persons. This “profit sharing” system is critical to the success of JPay.

Aside from profit sharing, JPay also linearizes the payment transfer system, allowing various Departments of Corrections to deduct fees and charges before the money hits an incarcerated person’s account. Such charges include: court fees, booking fees, intake fees, and in some cases a fifteen percent for mandatory savings account.

Finally, as governments increasingly shift the costs of imprisonment from taxpayers to the families of those imprisoned, money is needed to pay for basic needs like toothpaste, visits to the doctor, winter clothes, toilet paper, electricity, and even room and board. Thus, JPay offers an efficient electronic system that funnels money into the system.

There are, of course, other, less supported, explanations behind JPay’s success, including that it has deliberately hampered the money order system in the situations in which it handles them, or that it has practiced questionable lobbying practices. These explanations, even if true, are secondary to the ones discussed above.

Ultimately JPay adds an undue economic burden upon those who are most vulnerable in our society, thereby helping to perpetuate the poverty-prison cycle. Furthermore it has exploited a situation in which people are increasingly financially responsible for their own incarceration or that of their loved one. Despite the marginal benefits of its electronic system, JPay overall constitutes yet another harm to our already dysfunctional corrections system.  

Sourcing and further reading: 

Prison Legal News article and follow up 

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Central Park Five Event Recap

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Central Park Five Event Recap

On Thursday, February 26th, SPEAR hosted its Central Park Five event. The night kicked off at 5:00PM with a screening of the 2-hr Central Park Five documentary, followed by a panel with Raymond Santana, one of the members of The Central Park Five; Five Mualimm-ak, Founder of The Incarcerated Nation Corporation; and Craig Levine, The Senior Counsel and Policy Direction for The New Jersey Institute for Social Justice. The screening and panel discussion were followed by dinner and conversation between the guest speakers and the event attendees. Thank you to all the speakers and guests who attended the event!


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The Central Park Five & the Problem of False Confession

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The Central Park Five & the Problem of False Confession

Prepared by the Research Committee

On Thursday, February 19th, 2015, SPEAR will host Raymond Santana, a member of the Central Park Five, a group of men who were wrongly convicted of rape in the year 1989, only to have their convictions vacated in 2002. After a woman was raped and beaten in Central Park on the night of April 19th 1989, New York City Police apprehended Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana, Kharey Wise, and Yusef Salaam, all aged 14 to 16, and interrogated them for 72 hours. Faced with enormous pressure from Police, false promises of safe return to their homes, combined with the exhaustion and confusion of being a teenager in police custody, the 5 boys confessed to raping the victim, despite all five being completely innocent. Their false confessions were used during trial, and the boys were given sentences ranging from 5 to 15 years.

Intuitively, confessions seem to be a rigorous form of evidence, but stories like that of the Central Park Five show how easy it is for someone, when placed in the right environment and under the right pressures, to do something dramatically against their interests. In fact, false confessions are a leading cause of wrong convictions, accounting for 30% of wrongful convictions each year.[1] Let’s examine the mechanics of how false confessions lead to the incarceration of men and women every year.

Academic study on the nature of false confessions has revealed three “pathways” that lead someone to admit when they are innocent.

The first “pathway” towards false confession is called misclassification error, which is when suspect is immediately perceived as guilty by the interrogating officer. As a result, police continue to interrogate a suspect even after he or she has denied guilt. This causes persistence on the part of the interrogator, heightening the pressure that may cause someone to decide that confessing is in their best interests.

Misclassification” can take many forms. Police may be racially biased and continue to interrogate black and brown men because they fit the officer’s perception of who perpetrated the crime. In the case of the Central Park Five, the profiles of the five boys played into public fears about roaming bands of dangerous, “wilding youths.”

Officers may also presume guilt of a suspect by believing themselves to be “human lie detectors.”[2] As Richad Leo and Steven Drizin state in their 2012 paper, The Three Errors, Pathways to False Confessions, “there is no human behavior or psychological response that is unique to deception and therefore no tell-tale behavioral signs of deception or truth telling.”[3] Police officers can accurately predict a lie only 45% to 60% of the time, however police interrogators continue to believe that they know when someone is lying, causing them to unnecessarily zero-in on certain suspects.[4] Disproving the myth of the canny, intuitive, and unbiased police interrogator is a necessary step in lowering the number of false confessions.

The second route towards a false confessions is what Richard Leo and Steven Drizin term “coercion errors.” These errors are the easiest to understand because they align most closely with our popular conception of a police interrogation. Suspects may confess to avoid physical harm or discomfort. However, a police interrogation can lead to a false confession even without denial of basic human rights. Experts believe that any interrogation beyond 6 hours long is coercive. After that point, a suspect might be willing to do anything to stop the police from questioning them.[5] All five members of the Central Park Five tell how they were willing to falsely confess to the crime just so they could go home, a scenario repeated over and over again in the study of the false confessions of Juveniles.

Furthermore, during questioning, police can make it appear to the suspect that the state has an overwhelming case against them by inventing false evidence. If a suspect believes that they will be proven guilty in court no matter what they say, it makes sense to falsely confess in order to reduce his or her future sentence. In the case Central Park Five, police told Yusef Salaam that they had found his fingerprints on the jogger’s shorts when they did not. As a result Yusef thought that his best case of action was to falsely confess.

Juveniles are especially vulnerable to coercive police methods and false confessions. Juveniles make up a highly disproportionate share, 63%, of all exonerations based on false confessions. Youth need special protections against abuses in police interrogations, and they should not be able to waive their right to counsel before entering the interrogation room.  

Finally, false conviction can be the result of “contamination error,” which is where a confession becomes more believable because it includes information that only the perpetrator would be able to know. The central park five all describe how even though they did not know the details of the crime, officer “fed them” information, including the way the jogger was dressed and the names of the other boys involved in the case, letting their false confessions become more believable. As a result, jurors believed their confessions to be more genuine than they were.

Contamination errors can be accidental or intentional on the part of the police. Police need better training to avoid releasing non-public information. Interrogations should be recorded in order to trace the source of all information and to place increased scrutiny on officers in the interrogation room.

 

For more information on false confessions, see The Innocence Project at http://www.innocenceproject.org/understand/False-Confessions.php  

 

[1] Leo, Richard A. and Drizin, Steven A., The Problem of False Confessions in the Post-DNA World. North Carolina Law Review, Vol. 82, 2004. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1134094

[2] Leo, Richard A. and Drizin, Steven A., The Three Errors: Pathways to False Confession and Wrongful Conviction (2010). G. Daniel Lassiter & Christian Meissner, eds., Police Interrogations and False Confessions: Current Research, Practice, and Policy Recommendations (American Psychological Association, 2010); Univ. of San Francisco Law Research Paper No. 2012-04. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1542901

[3] ibid.

[4] ibid.

[5] Leo and Drizin, 2004

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Central Park Five Screening and Panel Discussion

Please join SPEAR for the screening of the documentary The Central Park Five. A panel discussion will follow the screening that will be moderated by Five Mualimm-ak, the founder of the Incarcerated National Campaign and will feature Raymond Santana, one of the members of the Central Park Five, and Craig Levine, the Senior Counsel and Policy Director of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice. The event will take place Thursday, February 26th at 5:00PM inside Betts Auditorium. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AehmA3hTLmA

"In 1989, five Black and Latino teenagers were arrested and charged with brutally attacking and raping a white female jogger in Central Park. The five young teenagers were forced to spend years in prison for a crime they didn't commit before the truth about what really happened became clear. With THE CENTRAL PARK FIVE, this story of injustice finally gets the attention it deserves". 
http://www.ifcfilms.com/films/the-central-park-five






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Support for S.2588

We urge you to show your support for S.2588, also known as The Isolated Confinement Restriction Act. If passed, the bill would eliminate the long-term use of prisoner isolation in every facility operated through contract with the Department of Corrections within New Jersey. Solitary confinement is a form of cruel and unusual punishment that can currently be implemented for a variety of reasons, such as "protection" or punishment for minor, nonviolent infractions. It has been characterized by the UN as torture when used for extended periods, as it currently is in New Jersey. Please consider showing your support for this bill by attaching your signature to a letter that SPEAR is sending to NJ Senator Linda Greenstein before the bill has its first hearing on Thursday. The link below allows you to add your signature to the letter. 

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1YCK6CElurYcpIim3bhq5BKjGfWwQfMXsCXOP7tDBd1A/viewform?c=0&w=1

 

For More Information on S.2588 and Solitary Confinement: 

 

For A Copy of the Letter:

 

 

 

 

 

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The Role of Civil Society in Creating a More Effective Criminal Justice System

Come join us this Monday, December 8 at 4:30pm in McCosh Hall 50 for one of SPEAR's most exciting events to date.

Come talk with criminal justice policymakers and civil society leaders about how citizens can contribute towards creating a more effective criminal justice system in the United States. Students for Prison Education and Reform (SPEAR) and the Office of Religious Life, in association with the Program in Law and Public Affairs, the Center for American Studies, the Pace Center for Civic Engagement and the Petey Greene Program, will be holding a panel discussion featuring James McGreevey (Former NJ Governor), Gary Lanigan (NJ Department of Corrections Commissioner), Michael Jacobson (Former Director of the Vera Institute of Justice) and Walter Fortson Jr. (Truman Scholar; Petey Greene Regional Field Manager for New Jersey).

Date: Monday, December 8, 2014.

Time: 4:30 PM

Venue: McCosh 50


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Criminal Justice-Related Classes for Spring 2015 Semester

Race, Drugs and Drug Policy in America 

HIS 393 / AAS 364 / WWS 389 (HA)

http://registrar.princeton.edu/course-offerings/course_details.xml?courseid=011579&term=1154 

 

The History of Incarceration in the US

HIS 459 / GSS 459 (HA)   na, npdf

http://registrar.princeton.edu/course-offerings/course_details.xml?courseid=013008&term=1154

 

The Sociology of Crime and Punishment

SOC 222 (SA) 

http://registrar.princeton.edu/course-offerings/course_details.xml?courseid=008187&term=1154

 

Race and Public Policy

WWS 331 / SOC 312 / AAS 317 (SA)   

http://registrar.princeton.edu/course-offerings/course_details.xml?courseid=010405&term=1154

 

The New Jim Crow: US Crime Policy from Constitutional Formation to Ferguson

AAS 247 / POL 382 (SA)   No Audit

http://registrar.princeton.edu/course-offerings/course_details.xml?courseid=013020&term=1154

 

Black Politics in the Post-Civil Rights Era

POL 344 / AAS 344 (SA)   No Audit

http://registrar.princeton.edu/course-offerings/course_details.xml?courseid=013122&term=1154

 

Race, Labor and Long Civil Rights Movement

AAS 345 / AMS 346 (SA)   na, npdf

http://registrar.princeton.edu/course-offerings/course_details.xml?courseid=013021&term=1154

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7x9

Our second annual 7x9 performance will be taking place next week on Tuesday, October 14 and Wednesday October 15. The 24-hour performance, bookended by public events featuring currently incarcerated persons and Sarah Shourd, is meant to raise awareness about the horrors of solitary confinement and, more generally, ways in which our nation's criminal justice system must be transformed in order to transfer the focus from punishment to rehabilitation. For more information, please see the "7x9 Event Information" and "7x9 Fact Sheet" sections of our website.

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A Note on Language

We respect and seek to empower people who are or who have been incarcerated.  To that end, we reject the dehumanizing words of the prison system like “inmates,” “offenders,” “convicts,” “felons,” and “prisoners,” which evoke feelings of otherness and fear.  People in prison are people and should be referred to as such. We as an organization strive to use inclusive language such as “people in prison,” “people who are currently incarcerated,” “people with past involvement in the justice system,” and “people who were formerly incarcerated.”

 

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End of Year Update

The past year was a year of growth and progress for SPEAR. We hosted a diverse group of events to educate the Princeton community. One of them was Project Pride, a panel where currently incarcerated people spoke to students and community members about their experiences. We also had the privilege of hearing noted activist Five Omar Mualimm-ak speak about the cruel and unusual practice of solitary confinement, receiving important lessons on our nation's history from radical academic Jeff Perry, and getting the benefit of many other extraordinary individuals' experiences.

One of our major projects first semester was the 7x9 project, a piece of performance art that raised awareness on campus about solitary confinement.

This spring, SPEAR held its inaugural conference, Building a New Criminal Justice: Mobilizing Students for Reform. The opening address was given by Marc Mauer, director of the Sentencing Project, and the closing address by former New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey. In between were panels on a variety of different issues related to American criminal justice policy and advocacy for reform. The speakers were a diverse group that included journalists, filmmakers, CEOs, academics, activists and lawyers. Many of us students found the conference left us better informed and more motivated to enact change.

At the year's end, SPEAR's members were honored to see their work acknowledged by Princeton's with the Santos-Dumont Award for Innovation, which recognizes "co-curricular, ground breaking initiatives" by students. The Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Students commended the group's "dedication to sponsoring such impactful programs that both broaden and deepen discourse of social justice amongst their peers" and pointed out that the campus is seeing "increasing activity around social justice."

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