He Left Prison With a $120 Debit Card. Then Came the Fees

JPMorgan Chase agrees to $447K settlement
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 3, 2016 10:34 AM CDT
He Left Prison With a $120 Debit Card. Then Came the Fees
JPMorgan will also pay up to $250,000 in attorneys' fees and costs for the plaintiffs.   (Shutterstock)

(Newser) – That prisoners get gouged by private companies is not new news, but a class-action suit has brought a bit of relief. Bloomberg reports that JPMorgan Chase on Monday agreed to pay $446,822 to ex-cons who were released from federal prison with a pre-paid, non-refillable debit card in hand—only to be hit with staggering and atypical fees when they went to use it. Regular debit card holders pay no fee when they withdraw money via a teller, for instance; the former inmates paid $10, reports the Financial Times. A standout quote in the complaint from one unnamed former inmate: "I left prison with $120. Because of the fees, I was only able to use about $70 of it."

Inmates can earn money through prison jobs or be sent funds from friends and family. For the past 8 years, any such unspent money that exiting inmates had was placed on the card provided by JPMorgan. Bloomberg reports nearly 50,000 former inmates are eligible to receive what works out to be a small slice of that settlement. "It's about the principle of the matter, and setting a precedent for future litigation against similar predatory practices," says lead plaintiff Jesse Krimes. (Read more prisoners stories.)

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