Showing your “inmate” you care

In our persistent efforts to make contact with our partner, Robert, we were directed to a cheery and colorful website:, tagline: “making it easier.” With an alarming similarity to J-date (the Jewish specific online dating service), Jpay uses its interface as a medium to “connect you to your loved one.”

Loaded with stock photos of smiling glossy-skinned faces, witty taglines, and commercial blog content, Jpay puts a disturbingly fluffy blanket over the realities of the hostile and distressing prison system. With services like Inmate Lookup, Prison Finder, and video visitations, prison looks like a breeze for inmates, friends, and family. They even have what is called JP4 ® (a play off of MP3’s) where you can pay to “give your inmate access to music.”

Here’s a screen shot of “your inmate” enjoying music.


A blog roll and twitter feed scroll across the bottom of the page with messages like “the problem of cells in cells” and “video visitation contest winners!” It seems like the winner of the video visitation contest (now, the proud owner of a $25 Walmart gift card!) captured the special offering that is Jpay:

“While on Jpay’s website completing a simple transaction;I noticed an innovative way for families to have interaction.

For those with loved ones that are locked up across the nation; It sounds like a futuristic tool to ease the pain of incarceration.

I checked and video visitation isn’t available in our state; So, unfortunately for now, our family will have to wait.

But when we get the option to connect online with our brother; His entire family will be so excited, but especially our mother.

She hasn’t seen her son in years and this would be the next best thing; Watching them reunite with all the bittersweet joy that would bring.

So until that happens we will try to remind him he is not forgotten; That even though he’s made mistakes he has value and is not rotten.

And although he’s locked up in his cell for twenty-three hours per day; We’ll reach out through letters and one day video visitation from Jpay.

– Derrick Simmons of Nevada

It is hard to distinguish the tone of this poem (and the entire site for that matter) from that of a warped SNL comedy sketch. Whether its intention is to lighten the severity of the situation or it is just in shockingly poor taste. To the millions of people connected to the prison system through incarcerated loved ones, it is disrespectful and unfairly representative.