JP Morgan Accused of Ripping off Inmates


JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s contract to provide debit cards to inmates released from federal prison may have backfired after a former convict raised a ruckus.

The bank agreed to pay a total of $446,822 to thousands of ex-prisoners to settle a class-action suit claiming JPMorgan ripped them off with $10 fees to withdraw money from a teller window and $2 charges for using non-network ATMs, according to a filing on Monday in federal court in Philadelphia.

JPMorgan’s contract with the Federal Bureau of Prisons was a scheme “to exploit one of the most vulnerable groups imaginable -- releasees from federal corrections facilities,” according to the complaint. “Every cent counts for federal releasees who are coming out of prison without an immediate means of income.”

The New York-based bank also agreed to pay as much as $250,000 in plaintiffs’ attorneys’ fees and costs, the filing said. The relatively small payout to inmates, which almost 50,000 ex-cons qualify to share in, doesn’t faze the lead plaintiff in the case, 33-year-old Philadelphia artist Jesse Krimes.

Principle and Precedent

“It’s about the principle of the matter, and setting a precedent for future litigation against similar predatory practices,” said Krimes, who made artwork from prison-issued sheets and soap while serving six years after pleading guilty to distributing cocaine. (The accord comes just in time for a solo exhibition in New York starting Aug. 4.)

“I left prison with $120,” an unidentified former inmate said in the complaint. “Because of the fees, I was only able to use about $70 of it.” [MORE]