A Florida prison inmate filed a federal class action lawsuit saying he and other prisoners bought digital music on special players for $1.70 per song, then lost access when the Department of Corrections switched tech vendors.
“Once music is purchased, you’ll always own it,” inmates were told, according to a complaint filed by the inmate, William Demler.
But in fact, according to the complaint, when prisons switched from standalone music players from a company called Access Corrections to new tablets from JPay, now part of prison tech giant Securus, they were only offered discounted tablets and up to $50 to use on music for the new devices. Demler said in the complaint he spent $569.50 on music, meaning most of what he spent would be lost.
Inmates were also permitted to have their music put on a disc to be sent to friends or relatives or, for a fee, have the old device itself modified for use outside prison and sent to an outside contact. But that, Demler argues, isn’t helpful to prisoners who bought music to listen to while behind bars.
“Further, many FDOC prisoners are serving life sentences (or a term so long it is the functional equivalent of life), or have no family or friends on the outside to whom to send the player or CD,” according to the complaint. “For these prisoners in particular, the option to mail out the player is completely illusory.”
Florida officials said in a statement reported by Ars Technica that inmates who left prison while the old players were in place were able to take them home and emphasized that the new devices have additional features.
“In January 2018, the Department’s contract providing MP3 players for inmates expired,” according to the statement. “We procured an alternative contract to make updated technology available with features to enhance familial interactions, educational opportunities, and inmate well-being.”