April last year, the Florida Department of Corrections struck a deal with JPay. The private company, spearheading a push to sell profit-driven multimedia tablets to incarcerated people across the country, would be allowed to bring the technology to every facility in the nation’s third-largest prison system. But there was a catch.
Inmates had already been purchasing electronic entertainment for the last seven years — an MP3 player program run by a different company: Access Corrections. For around $100, Access sold various models of MP3 players that inmates could then use to download songs for $1.70 each, and keep them in their dorms.
The demand was clear. More than 30,299 players were sold, and 6.7 million songs were downloaded over the life of the Access contract, according to the Department of Corrections. That’s about $11.3 million worth of music.
Because of the tablets, inmates will have to return the players, and they can’t transfer the music they already purchased onto their new devices.
Scott Larsen is the sole provider for his 68-year old brother, who is incarcerated at Union Correctional Institution in Raiford.
“My brother was a musician, and music is very important to him,” said Scott Larsen. “The MP3 player was a good source of entertainment and peace of mind for him.”
Larsen said he will be able to help his brother rebuild his music library, but there are many other inmates, especially elderly ones, who don’t have the money or family support to do so.