The Communication Barrier 

By Timothy Pauley

One side effect of the COVID crisis has been communication with the outside world. A number of years ago prison services became big business. Companies figured out they could take advantage of prisoners and their families by offering to pay the state for the exclusive right (monopoly) to exploit us financially. One such company is Jpay.

The operative word in the company name, ‘pay’, pretty much describes this company. They are able to charge prisoners and their families for such things as email. They actually collect a fee for each email we send or receive. To facilitate a greater volume of email, they have enabled our devices to transmit these emails via WiFi.

Right at the very beginning of the pandemic, they began issuing devices that were not capable of accessing WiFi. This means that in order to send or receive an email, a prisoner has to actually plug their device into one of the Jpay kiosks. There are 2 of these kiosks in each 193 man unit. So everyone who has one of these defective devices has to stand in a line multiple times each day in order to maintain communication with the outside world. If we do not, we risk losing touch with our friends and family who naturally interpret any delay in communication to be lack of effort on our part.

Each day, when I am not reporting to my job, I rush to the kiosk to send and receive my emails. Most days I am soon surrounded by people who insist on standing way too close. Most of them do not like wearing masks, so their mask is hanging off one ear, or pulled down below their chin, or sometimes being worn in their pocket. I’m often stuck like this for an hour or more.

Then the predators at Jpay had the bright idea they could rent us movies we would download and be able to watch on our devices (similar in size to your phone). In order to do this, everyone has to connect to the kiosk to download the movie catalog, which ultimately ended up being filled with a bunch of movies several years old that have already appeared on TV for free. Jpay charges $8.00 per movie for this service.

This resulted in an increase in the kiosk line that was exponential. Essentially I’m now required to stand inches away from groups of other prisoners for extended periods of time, on a regular basis, just to keep in touch with my friends and family. If this very thing were happening in the community, the governor would have issued an executive order addressing the situation months ago. Since it’s just prisoners, however, they just remind us of the importance of social distancing, then continually confront us with scenarios where it is literally impossible to carry out any kind of social distancing at all.

When you hear reports of all the businesses that are in jeopardy of going under due to the pandemic, you can be certain beyond any doubt that Jpay is not among them. COVID-19 has been a windfall for them. And as the pandemic wears on, the quality of their services continues to deteriorate, even as they rake in profits at record levels.

So the doc and their business partner Jpay have managed to create a near perfect disease delivery system. We’re just sitting here waiting for the inevitable; the day someone inadvertently introduces the virus into the mix…