JPay, the Apple of the U.S. Prison System

JPay is marketing a prison-proof music player. Next up: a tablet
JPay CEO Ryan Shapiro wants to rock jailhouses Photograph by Gideon Barnett for Bloomberg Businessweek

From 1990 to 2010, the number of inmates in U.S. state or federal prisons more than doubled to 1.54 million, according to a June report by the Pew Center on the States. Benefiting from that surge are corrections contractors such as JPay. The Miami-based company handles money transfers, e-mail communications, and video visitations (all of which are monitored by corrections officers) for more than 1 million prisoners in about 35 states. Last year, JPay, which has 200 employees, began marketing its own line of “prison-proof” MP3 players. “We’re looking for products that an inmate would want to buy and a corrections facility would accept,” says Chief Executive Officer Ryan Shapiro, who started the business in 2001 after working in marketing at a New York tech startup. “Music was a no-brainer because inmates don’t have enough music, and they all love music.”

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