Je Pay


I’ve been reading “Always Looking Up” by Michael J. Fox for a day or so during my short periods of free time. I’ve always been interested in reading about him. He was a good part of my entertainment when I was young, on Family Ties, and in movies such as Back to the Future. I don’t believe he’s acted since 2000, so when I saw his face on a book in our small library I picked it up.

He and I have a lot in common. He’s a famous actor with Parkinson’s Disease, and I’m a prisoner that takes medication for Parkinson’s Disease. It’s like we’re twins.

Anyhow, I don’t really have anything more to say on that subject, except that I was just mentioning it’s a good book so far. Inspirational is the word I think I’m supposed to use.

[ANNE: A few updates:

Someone from the Department of Corrections called and asked if I was indeed Anne Maertz, if I was willing to house Vince upon his release, if I owned my home. I said yes and yes and yes. Then she said, “I need to confirm that you have no firearms or alcohol in your home.” I stifled a laugh because I have learned that DOC people don’t like it when you laugh. “You mean when Vince comes to live with me, right? Not as of this moment?” She said yes and I confirmed that I don’t have any firearms and my house will be alcohol free when Vince is released. But I could not resist saying, “You realize there are 50 bars and liquor stores within walking distance of where I live, right?” She said she did realize that but that this was their policy.

When I’m not feeling contrary, I can see the logic of the policy. Most suicides are committed with firearms found in the home. Without instant access, many suicides could be prevented. Same for chemical dependency relapses. Say Vince is feeling despondent at 3am. If there’s beer in the fridge, it would be so easy for him to walk 10 feet down the hall and medicate himself. But with nothing in the house and no bars or liquor stores open at that time, he would be forced to deal with his feelings and cravings until morning, and as the AA slogan goes, “Each day a new beginning.”

My other interaction was with the prison industrial complex. As I wrote a couple weeks ago, the Minnesota DOC has switched email vendors. This sent me into a tizzy because email is the one cheap, dependable system that actually had worked for us to communicate. I finally found time to set up an account with the new vendor. They asked for my address, phone number, credit card number, and date of birth. That last one seemed unnecessarily intrusive.

The new vendor, J Pay, has a slick website with photos of people who look like they are having the time of their lives.

It calls account credit “stamps.” Is that so you don’t realize it’s money? After multiple failed attempts, I was able to buy $2.00 worth of “stamps,” which is the maximum one can purchase at a time.

It costs .40 per “stamp.”  The emails you can send are only about 1/3 as long–it’s difficult to tell before you hit “send.”  Most people are not going to do the math, but I am not most people. The old system worked out to about 10 cents per page, while this one will be 40 cents per page. I would say, cynically, that they count on people being too overwhelmed or math-impaired to figure this out, but actually it doesn’t matter – we are prisoners to J Pay and other such legal scams. The only other option is to send only postal mail. If I am realistic, that’s just not going to happen. I like to send Vince newspaper articles about baseball, and those are not allowed to be mailed to prisoners. Don’t ask me why.

At the bottom of the J Pay website were the usual social media buttons—“Like us on Facebook!” they implored. Right! As if J Pay is some sort of uber cool product I want to give free PR.

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