Florida

Lawsuit accuses Florida Dept. of Corrections of multimillion-dollar digital media scam

A federal class action lawsuit claims the Florida Dept. of Corrections stole millions of dollars of legally purchased digital music and books from prisoners after striking a deal with a new digital media vendor.
A federal class action lawsuit claims the Florida Dept. of Corrections stole millions of dollars of legally purchased digital music and books from prisoners after striking a deal with a new digital media vendor. Bigstock

A federal class action lawsuit accuses the Florida Department of Corrections of stealing millions of dollars of inmate-purchased digital music and books from prisoners.

The lawsuit, filed in the Northern District of Florida by the Florida Justice Institute and the Social Justice Law Collective on behalf of lifer William Demler, names state Corrections Secretary Mark Inch as the defendant.

The suit says the Department of Corrections sold digital music and books to Florida prisoners for six years with the promise that the inmates’ ownership of the media was forever. Demler bought more than 300 songs and books since 2012. He was one of the prisoners the suit says spent a total of $11.3 million on digital media from 2011 to 2017.

But, the suit claims, previous permanent ownership promises disintegrated once JPay Inc. made an agreement with Corrections to be the new media seller. The suit says Demler and other inmates had their digital media player, songs and books confiscated.

“These men and women relied on the representations made by the FDOC and its vendor that, once purchased, they would own these songs and books for the duration of their incarceration,” SJLC attorney Josh Glickman said in a statement. “The FDOC’s confiscation of these individuals’ lawfully purchased property — for no reason other than to turn a profit — is unconscionable.”

According to the Florida Corrections website, inmates who have a digital music player bought through the deal with the previous vendor Keefe can receive a free 4.3-inch mini tablet or buy a 7-inch tablet for $50 and get a $10 credit for new media purchases. But, in the FAQ section, it says getting a tablet means “the inmate will be required to release the MP3/MP4 player” and music won’t transfer from the MP3/MP4 player to the new tablet.

Julie Jones' short tenure as Secretary of the Florida Department of Corrections has seen disturbances, death and change. In a one-on-one interview, Jones talks about charges against the system, and what she's doing to try to improve conditions.

Since 1989, David J. Neal’s domain at the Miami Herald has expanded to include writing about Panthers (NHL and FIU), Dolphins, old school animation, food safety, fraud, naughty lawyers, bad doctors and all manner of breaking news. He drinks coladas whole. He does not work Indianapolis 500 Race Day.


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