The New York Times reports on a new breed of businesses flourishing inside American jails and prisons: internet, telephone and financial-service providers. Many of these players are being bankrolled by private equity. Private investment firms have invested many billions of dollars in the prison industry, betting — correctly — that it is a growth business.
Wall Street previously championed companies like Corrections Corporation of America, the nation's largest private corrections company. But unlike companies that have thrived by running prisons, the likes of Global Tel-Link and JPay are becoming de facto banks, phone companies and Internet service providers for inmates and their families across the nation. It is a lucrative proposition, in part because these companies often operate beyond the reach of regulations that protect ordinary consumers. Inmates say they are being gouged by high costs and hidden fees. Friends and families say they have little choice but to shoulder the financial burden.