Under the Dome

Lawmaker wants explanation about new inmate money policy

A lawmaker has asked the state prison agency to explain its new policy that turns over to a private company control of money that friends and relatives send to prisoners for a fee.

Rep. Charles Graham, a Democrat from Lumberton, made the request at a legislative committee meeting on Thursday. Graham asked that the Department of Public Safety report back in November. Committee co-chairman Sen. Thom Goolsby, a Republican from Wilmington, agreed.

Graham was referring to a story in The News & Observer on Thursday about the new procedure. A Florida-based company will handle the transactions – offering phone, internet and kiosk payments for the first time – for a fee. The company, JPay, will also handle money orders, which is the way inmates have received money, without charge.

But as of Nov. 1, people who want to send money orders will have to go on JPay’s website and print out a deposit slip to mail with the order. Prisoner advocates worry that procedure and the other changes will prevent or delay some people from sending money, since not everyone has a computer and printer.

N.C. CURE, one advocacy group, on Thursday said prisoners’ trust funds could also be overdrawn because of charges against co-payments for medical care, administrative charges, court fees, restitution, child support, for example.