A brief look at the absurdities of a public-private censorship partnership.
"How come he doesn't know it?’ inquired Yossarian.
"Because he’s got flies in his eyes," Orr explained with exaggerated patience. "How can he see he's got flies in his eyes if he's got flies in his eyes?"
- Joseph Heller, Catch-22
At a time when leaving the house and meeting other people in person is impractical, we're more reliant than ever before on electronic communication, and the small numbers of tech companies that have a monopoly on such communication.
But for many of those behind bars, such restrictions on movement, and the dependencies that come with them, are nothing new. Freedom News recently published an article on what the "virtual panopticon" looks like in the context of the UK prison system.
Over in the US, JPay is one of the major companies, along with CorrLinks and Connect/GTL, that makes its money by administering this system. JPay's attracted a fair amount of criticism over the years, but it continues to extend its reach, aided by policies such as Texas banning greeting cards, forcing more and more communication to take place through JPay's channels.
One development that I haven't seen commented on is the recent change where they've gone from a system where credits can be used to communicate with any inmate using JPay, to a new state-by-state pricing system where sending the same amount of information to someone can cost up to double the price, depending on where they're located:
The system of charging wildly different prices to send the same thing to different people might seem confusing and unjustifiable, but I suppose it’s a glimpse of what we’ll all get to look forward to as mail services become more and more privatised.
Anyway, the main purpose of this blog is to share a recent communication from JPay, and a subsequent interaction:
Someone receives a notification saying that a message sent to them had been censored, and when they ask who sent the message, JPay reply that "we are unable to access this information at this time", and that the best thing for the person to do would be to "speak to your contacts" - in other words, to ask the sender. As a perfectly closed system, it has a certain neatness to it.