The United States is a world leader in the number of persons incarcerated, both by rate and volume. With more than 1.6 million people behind bars, there are a large number of U.S. families which must interact with the federal and state prison systems on behalf of family and friends. Given that many people have been convicted of crimes that require a mandatory period of incarceration, there is a long history of high rates of prison sentences. The U.S. has been a world leader in incarcerations since about 2002. Although behind bars, the need for inmate support does not end, and families in particular must find ways to support incarcerated persons personally and financially.

The Federal System

In the United States federal prison system, there is a unified method of prisoner identification and uniform standards for access to persons outside of the system. The federal system provides a convenient and efficient means for providing incidental and discretionary funds to inmates. The federal system provides a trust fund system for the benefit of each inmate. The system credits funds addressed to an inmate by identification number. A system of credits and balances are maintained. Funds can be applied to available privileges for commissary and personal items. This relationship is an important aspect of incarceration, and it helps avoid a more severe separation from family and society than needs be.

Inmate Funds Transfer Services

The leading firms in the U.S. for transferring funds to inmates for discretionary spending are Western Union and MoneyGram. They each have extensive service connections with federal and state penal systems for delivering funds electronically to inmates. Touchpay is a dedicated service for law enforcement issues including inmate accounts. Access Corrections has a limited number of state systems in its network. JPay has a large number of state systems in its network, and it provides a comprehensive set of tools for financial and other forms of inmate support including remote visitation.

Payment of Ordered Fees and Penalties

Jpay, Touchpay and Access Corrections provide means for support for penalties, and court-ordered restitution, and other obligations that must be paid as part of legal proceedings. Rather than transferring to an individual, these services are connected to judicial and correctional systems for collections. Payment of fees can be important for such procedures as parole and early release.


Many States have privatized the systems for managing prisons or parts of it. It is a growing trend around the United States as states look for more economical ways of managing large prison populations. For example, in Florida, and 30 other states JPAY is the official agency for handling inmate accounts. Whether one uses MoneyGram or any other service, all funds must be addressed to an inmate through JPAY.

Overall Impact

Support for inmates is an important part of the rehabilitation process, and financial transfer systems add much to the situation. Keeping connection with the outside world is important since inmates eventually will rejoin society and attempt to re-establish a productive role. Families can keep a meaningful connection with loved ones as they work their ways back to release. Online access to fund transfers, debt and credit card transfers, and easily understood access procedures all add to the usefulness of money transfer services for inmates.