If you want to transfer money to someone you can do it for free using Venmo, and several other companies allow you to do this kind of transaction for a nominal fee. But that’s not the case if you’re trying to send money to someone who’s locked up in a New Jersey prison.

Wanda Bertram, a spokeswoman for the nonprofit Prison Policy Initiative, said the New Jersey Department of Corrections, like corrections departments in most other states, uses a for-profit company to handle inmate banking.

“In New Jersey, it’s a company called Securus, which is actually rather notorious across the country for charging incarcerated people and their families an arm and a leg,” she said. "If I want to make a deposit to my loved one in prison in New Jersey, I’m going to see a fee of $3 tacked onto the $20.

A 15% processing fee

She noted a deposit of $50 in an inmate’s account requires a $7 processing fee.

Bertram said this means if family members want to give money to an incarcerated loved one for even basic hygiene items, “if you can’t afford to pay a 15% surcharge on your deposit to your loved one who’s in prison then you don’t really have anywhere else to go.”

In certain situations a check or cash can be mailed, she said, “but states make it very hard to use any other option besides the contractor that they’ve set up.”

Why are the fees so high?

She called the fees "senseless."

“There is no reason to charge incarcerated people and their families an arm and a leg, and yet that’s what our prison systems have chosen to do," Bertram said.

Prison guard with keys walking outside cell

Bertram said the only reason these fees are so high is that the goal is to make money.

“These companies are out to make a buck and the prison system is fine with that. What’s tragic about this is that prison systems, if they chose to, could get these rates way down,” she said.

Bertram said this is a clear indication the Corrections Department in New Jersey doesn’t really care that much about the people serving time behind bars.

“They’re willing to sign away basic and essential services to any company that is willing to take the services off their hands, rather than them having to do it internally.”

Man in prison hands of behind hold Steel cage jail bars. offender criminal locked in jail.
Rattankun Thongbun

She noted Jersey prisons and most jails charge inmates 5 cents a minute to make a phone call, which is among the cheapest rates in the nation, but legislation is needed to make sure that rate isn’t arbitrarily changed in the next few years.

The state Department of Corrections was asked to comment on the issue and a spokesman said “NJDOC is committed to ensuring that incarcerated individuals have access to technology that permits connection to loved ones and families through various services.”

He added “these services are competitively bid by outside vendors, and the Department continues to identify methods for providing these services at reasonable and affordable rates, including recently reducing the costs of money transfers.

David Matthau is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at david.matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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LOOK: The states with the most UFO sightings

For each state, we’ve also included details of famous UFO sightings in that state. Of note is that almost three-quarters of all UFO sighting reports in the United States occur between 4 p.m. and midnight, and tend to peak between 9 and 10 p.m. Food for thought next time you're out scoping for alien life. Keep reading to see which states have had the most UFO sightings.

15 sensational places to visit in Seaside Heights and Seaside Park

From amusement rides to all the boardwalk food and lots of water fun, Seaside Heights and neighboring Seaside Park have endured as a family friendly spot for all ages.

Along the way, the Seaside Heights Boardwalk and Casino Pier have been struck with tragic disasters - such as fire, Superstorm Sandy and another fire. Both have proven their resiliency through rebuilding and expansion.

These are the best hiking spots in New Jersey

A trip to New Jersey doesn't have to be all about the beach. Our state has some incredible trails, waterfalls, and lakes to enjoy.

From the Pine Barrens to the Appalachian Trail to the hidden gems of New Jersey, you have plenty of options for a great hike. Hiking is such a great way to spend time outdoors and enjoy nature, plus it's a great workout.

Before you go out on the trails and explore some of our listeners' suggestions, I have some tips on hiking etiquette from the American Hiking Society.

If you are going downhill and run into an uphill hiker, step to the side and give the uphill hiker space. A hiker going uphill has the right of way unless they stop to catch their breath.

Always stay on the trail, you may see side paths, unless they are marked as an official trail, steer clear of them. By going off-trail you may cause damage to the ecosystems around the trail, the plants, and wildlife that live there.

You also do not want to disturb the wildlife you encounter, just keep your distance from the wildlife and continue hiking.

Bicyclists should yield to hikers and horses. Hikers should also yield to horses, but I’m not sure how many horses you will encounter on the trails in New Jersey.
If you are thinking of bringing your dog on your hike, they should be leashed, and make sure to clean up all pet waste.

Lastly, be mindful of the weather, if the trail is too muddy, it's probably best to save your hike for another day.

I asked our listeners for their suggestions of the best hiking spots in New Jersey, check out their suggestions:

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