JPay, a prison contractor, was fined over fees it charged to former prisoners.

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JPay, a financial services contractor serving prisons, will pay $6 million in fines and restitution to settle claims brought by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that it took advantage of former prisoners by forcing them to pay fees to access their own money.

JPay, which is owned by the private equity firm Platinum Equity Partners, agreed to pay $2 million in fines, the C.F.P.B. said in an announcement on Tuesday. The company also agreed to return another $4 million to people who were forced to pay fees to access money they were owed, including gifts from friends and relatives, wages earned in prison and state-level benefits meant to help newly-released people get back on their feet.

Since 2011, more than 500,000 of the 1.2 million people who received prepaid cards from JPay were forced to pay fees to retrieve their money, the C.F.P.B. said. As part of its agreement with the regulator, JPay agreed last week to stop charging fees to use the prepaid debit cards prisoners are given upon their release. It can now only charge fees if a card has been inactive for more than 90 days.

In some states, users were allowed to apply to get their money without being charged fees, according to a document the C.F.P.B. filed on Tuesday. But the option was detailed in fine print and users had to request their funds via telephone within seven to 10 days of receiving their cards and had to provide a mailing address to which JPay could send a check, a difficult task for many newly freed people.

In an emailed statement on Tuesday, Rohit Chopra, the C.F.P.B.’s director, said that because company has contracts with prisons that make it their only provider of financial services, the people using JPay had not choice over how to retrieve their money.

“JPay charged a number of fees on its prepaid cards, even though people could not obtain their money through other means, shop among prepaid card providers, or readily cash out the cards without paying a fee,” he said.

Jade Trombetta, a JPay spokeswoman, said the company was “pleased” with the C.F.P.B. settlement and had fully cooperated with the bureau’s investigation.

Beverly Hills-based Platinum Equity described the settlement as part of an overhaul of JPay’s parent company, called Aventiv Technologies, which it has owned since 2017.

Aventiv has been “emphasizing collaboration with regulators and correction of certain past practices,” said Mark Barnhill, a partner at Platinum Equity. “This settlement is in keeping with that change agenda.”

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