Stop Prison Profiteering

Join us in fighting the companies and governments that are financially exploiting prisoners and pushing the costs of mass incarceration on to the families of prisoners. This includes money transfer services, commissary companies, pay to stay fees, for-profit probation and parole, the bail bond industry and the other parasites feeding off the prison system.
The “Time is Money” documentary featured here was produced by theCenter for Public Integrity, a nonprofit, nonpartisan investigative newsroom in Washington, DC. It was originally part of their “Profiting from Prisoners” series that originally appeared September 30, 2014.

Take Action

We are currently collecting information about the ways that family members of prisoners and detainees get cheated by the high cost of sending money to fund inmate accounts, and the ways that this money is given back upon release from custody (such as debit cards from private companies). There are pending federal actions where your stories could make a difference in these practices. Please fill out our survey to help us end prison profiteering.

The more stories we can collect the greater impact we can have.

If you or someone you know has been charged high fees to send money to a prisoner or to access money when released from custody we would like to know the following:

1) The name of the facility and state it is located in.

2) The name of the company processing the money or issuing the debit card.

3) How much money was taken from you? Were the fees disclosed? If so, how?

4) What documentation do you have?

5) When did it occur?

6) Did you object?

Please send your responses to:


About Us


Join the fight against private companies profiting off of mass incarceration by forcing prisoner and their families to pay exorbitant fees for basic services

The campaign to Stop Prison Profiteering (SPP) is led by the Human Rights Defense Center

We do not believe that the government or private for-profit companies should financially exploit and victimize the people enmeshed in the criminal justice system or the families of those people. The privatization of the criminal justice system and shifting the costs of the American police state onto the backs of our poorest citizens harms democracy and endangers public safety by perpetuating a permanent underclass of people too poor to ever emerge from the criminal justice system and live productive lives.

We call for an end to the monetizing of human and family contact through the use of “fees.” We call for an end to monopoly contracts by criminal justice agencies to private companies and by the giving of kickbacks or commissions to those government agencies for those monopoly contracts.

The following organizations have signed on as supporters of the SPP campaign’s efforts

Abolitionist Law Center (Pittsburgh, PA)

All of Us or None (National)

All of Us or None, Texas

Black & Pink, Chicago

Center for Community Change Action (Washington DC)

Center for Media Justice (Oakland, CA)

Civil Liberties Defense Center (Eugene, OR)

Civil Rights Clinic, Michigan State University College of Law

Columbia Legal Services (Seattle, WA)

International CURE (Citizens United for Rehabilitation of Errants)

Alabama CURE

Arkansas CURE

CURE Illinois

Colorado CURE

Minnesota CURE

Oregon CURE

Texas CURE

Virginia CURE

Dignity and Power Now (Los Angeles, CA)

Families for Justice as Healing (Boston MA)

Florida Immigrant Coalition

Florida Justice Institute

Florida New Majority

Friends of Broward Detainees (Ft. Lauderdale, FL)

Grassroots Leadership (Austin, TX)

Greenlining Institute (Berkeley, CA)

Highlander Center (New Market, TN)

Illinois Campaign for Prison Phone Justice

Immigrant Legal Resource Center (San Francisco, CA)

Incarcerated Nation Corp. (Bronx, NY)

In The Public Interest (Washington DC)

Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action (Boston, MA)

Just Schools Project (Brattleboro, VT)

Legal Aid Justice Center of Charlottesville (VA)

Legal Services for Prisoners with Children

Martinez Street Women’s Center (San Antonio, TX)

May First/People Link (Brooklyn, NY)

Media Alliance (Oakland, CA)

Media Literacy Project (Albuquerque, NM)

Media Action Grassroots Network

Million Hoodies

National Lawyers Guild

National Police Accountability Project, Inc.

National Death Row Assistance Network of CURE

National Immigrant Justice Center (Heartland Alliance Program)

New York Criminal Bar Association

No More Deaths / No Mas Muertes (Tucson, AZ)

Palm Beach Meeting,Religious Society of (Quakers) Friends (Lake Worth, FL)

Power U Center for Social Change (Miami, FL)

Prison Activist Resource Center (Oakland, CA)

Prison Law Office (San Quentin, CA)

Programa de Defensa e Indencia Binacional / Binational Defense and Advocacy Program (Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua)

Punch & Jurists Ltd. (NYC)

R.I.H.D., Inc. (Richmond, VA)

The Real Cost of Prisons Project

Reformed Church of Highland Park (NJ)

Sin Fronteras (MD)

Social Action Committee of Congregation L’Dor Va-Dor (Boca Raton, FL)

South Florida Prison Book Project

Southern Center for Human Rights (Atlanta, GA)

Southern Poverty Law Center

Spring4Ward Inc. (Miami, FL)

Sylvia Rivera Law Project (NYC)

Texas Criminal Justice Coalition

Texas Jail Project

The Prison Books Collective (Chapel Hill, NC)

Travis County X Offender Council (TX)

UC Davis Civil Rights Clinic (CA)

UC Davis School of Law Immigration Law Clinic (CA)

United Families (N. Miami Beach, FL)

Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center

V.O.T.E. (New Orleans, LA)

Voices for Racial Justice (Minneapolic, MN)

WA Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (Seattle, WA)

Women on the Rise (East Point, GA)

Working Narratives (NC)
Background on the SPP campaign

The Human Rights Defense Center (HRDC) began the Stop Prison Profiteering campaign in 2015 to expose and stop  business practices that result in the financial exploitation and gouging of friends and family members of prisoners and poor people enmeshed in the criminal justice system. We believe that further immiserating poor people perpetuates cycles of crime and poverty and that government should not be partnering with private for profit companies to use their police power and monopoly contracts to exploit and profiteer off the citizens involved in the criminal justice system.

HRDC is collecting information about the ways that prisoners and family members of incarcerated people get cheated and gouged by the high cost of sending money to fund prisoner accounts, including:

  • Fees to deposit money on prisoners’ accounts or delays in receiving no-fee money orders
  • Costly fees to use pre-paid debit cards upon release from custody, including jails
  • Fees charged to submit payment for parole and probation supervision, etc.
  • Fees charged to fund telephone calling accounts for prisoners
  • Companies refusing to refund fees or seizing fees

Friends and families of prisoners can follow this effort, which is part of the Nation Inside network, at

About HRDC

The Human Rights Defense Center (HRDC) was originally founded in 1990 in Washington state as Prisoners’ Legal News (later Prison Legal News) by Paul Wright. The initial purpose of the organization was to publish a monthly newsletter of the same name to give a voice to prisoners, their families and others affected by criminal justice policies in Washington. By 1993 the newsletter had grown into a magazine with nationwide news coverage and circulation.

In 1996 the organization received a small grant from the Southern Poverty Law Center which enabled HRDC to hire its first full-time employee. The following year, with the publication of The Celling of America: An Inside Look at the U.S. Prison Industry, an anthology of articles published in Prison Legal News (PLN), HRDC began distributing books that critique the criminal justice system as well as self-help and reference books of interest to prisoners. Two other anthologies of PLN articles have since been published, Prison Nation (2002) and Prison Profiteers (2007). HRDC has also published three of its own books — The Prisoners’ Guerrilla Handbook to Correspondence Programs in the United States and Canada (2009) and The Habeas Citebook: Ineffective Assistance of Counsel (2010), and theDisciplinary Self Help Litigation Manual (2014).

For the past 25 years HRDC has been on the forefront of fighting for the rights of prisoners and their families and against their political and financial exploitation.

HRDC currently distributes around 50 different criminal justice, legal and self-help titles, and continues to publish Prison Legal News, which has become a 72-page monthly publication with subscribers in all 50 states and internationally.

From the modest beginnings of a prison-based newsletter with a $50 budget and an all-volunteer grassroots base, HRDC has grown into a national 501(c)(3). HRDC is based in Lake Worth, Florida, has an office in Nashville, Tennessee and Seattle, Washington.

For more information about HRDC’s work and accomplishments please review our annual reports.

We need your financial help and support. Please make a donation to support our work, every little bit helps and please consider becoming a monthly sustainer to ensure we are able to continue holding the government accountable: