A Florida prison inmate has filed a class-action suit against the Florida Department of Corrections. The suit states that a switch between contractors removed prisoners’ access to millions of dollars worth of their own purchased music and eBooks. The Florida Times-Union reports inmate William Demler filed a class-action lawsuit alleging he and other inmates were falsely promised the ability to purchase music and audio books permanently through a digital media provider.The FDOC then cut access to inmates to sign a more lucrative contract with another provider.
Demler’s complaint involves Florida’s digital music player program. This program provided access to inmates in purchasing specially designed media players. The media players cost inmates anywhere between $99-$119. Individual songs and audio books were then available for purchase for $1.70 each. The complaint complains the program was heavily advertised throughout the prison system. The contractor, Access Corrections promised inmates would be able to own their purchases forever. Access Corrections and FDOC both broke their promises. Between 2011-2017, prisoners within the FDOC system spent approximately $11.3 million dollars purchasing 6.7 million files in total. Demner himself purchased $569 worth of files alone, not to mention the cost of the actual player.
In 2018, the FDOC switched from Access Corrections to another company JPay. JPay did not, and will not honor the previous purchases made by inmates. Inmates were then required to trade their media players for media tablets or pay an additional $25 to have them shipped outside of the prison. An additional was available, a CD containing their purchased music could also be shipped outside of the prison.
The complaint, filed by Demner, argues that the FDOC implemented JPay’s Tablet system requiring inmates to turn in “their” old media players. Accusing FDOC of “realizing even higher profit margins”, and as a result has “effectively stolen millions of dollars worth of digital music and books from the prisoners in its custody”. Times-Union notes that besides the music program, JPay helped the FDOC make commissions in the millions for money transfers, video calls and other miscellaneous services. Services that are provided at a massively inflated cost.
Access and JPay are both now referred to as the “aspiring iTunes of the prison world”. They both offer MP3 files that have replaced out of date physical media storage.
If Demner’s case is certified by a judge, this will be big for the inmates of Florida. The complaint argues the FDOC is effectively confiscating private property without due process, in violation of both the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments.
This suit would cover any inmate within the FDOC system that purchased the now inaccessible media player and purchased contents.