Did Your Favorites Win a 2023 Libby Award?

Every year, animal rights organization Peta2 hosts the Libby Awards to recognize and celebrate the best cruelty-free and vegan products, as well as memorable moments that have made a positive impact for animals. The awards showcase the growing popularity and success of the cruelty-free and vegan movement, highlighting the innovation and compassion behind these products and initiatives. In this blog post, we will take a closer look at this year’s winners, including the favorite cruelty-free beauty product, the most craveable vegan snack, and the best viral moment for animals.

Favorite Cruelty-Free Beauty Product. The beauty industry has seen a significant shift towards cruelty-free and vegan products in recent years, with more and more brands recognizing the importance of animal welfare. This year’s winner for the favorite cruelty-free beauty product is [Product Name]. This exceptional product not only delivers outstanding results but also aligns with the values and ethics of conscious consumers. Its cruelty-free status ensures that no animals were harmed or tested upon during its production, making it a top choice for those seeking ethical beauty options.

Most Craveable Vegan Snack. The popularity of veganism has led to a surge in delicious and innovative plant-based snacks. This year’s winner for the most craveable vegan snack is [Snack Name]. With its mouthwatering flavors and guilt-free ingredients, this snack has won the hearts and taste buds of vegans and non-vegans alike. Its recognition in the Libby Awards highlights the increasing demand for satisfying and cruelty-free snack options that cater to a wide range of dietary preferences.

Best Viral Moment for Animals. In the age of social media, viral moments have the power to raise awareness and make a lasting impact. The best viral moment for animals this year goes to [Moment Name]. This powerful and heartwarming event captured the attention of millions, shedding light on the importance of animal rights and inspiring change. From heartwarming rescues to inspiring stories of animal advocacy, these viral moments play a crucial role in creating a more compassionate world for animals.

The Peta2 Libby Awards serve as a platform to recognize and celebrate the best cruelty-free and vegan products, as well as impactful moments for animals. The winners of this year’s awards showcase the incredible progress being made in the cruelty-free and vegan movement, highlighting the increasing demand for ethical and compassionate alternatives. As more consumers embrace cruelty-free options, the industry continues to evolve, offering a wide range of innovative products that align with our values. Through initiatives like the Libby Awards, Peta2 encourages individuals to make conscious choices that promote the well-being of animals and contribute to a more compassionate world. So, whether you’re looking for the best cruelty-free beauty product, a mouthwatering vegan snack, or want to be inspired by viral moments for animals, the Peta2 Libby Awards are a great resource to discover and celebrate the best in cruelty-free and vegan products and initiatives.

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Louisiana State Penitentiary, Arkansas Cummins Unit, the East Arkansas Regional Unit, Mississippi State Penitentiary also known as Parchman Farm

In recent years, the use of private prisons has become a subject of intense debate and scrutiny. One particularly controversial aspect of these institutions is the use of cotton picking as a work program in certain states, namely Mississippi, Arkansas, and Louisiana. This practice has raised concerns about modern-day slavery, exploitation, and the perpetuation of racial inequalities.

Private prisons, also known as for-profit prisons, are correctional facilities operated by private companies rather than the government. These companies enter into contracts with state or federal governments to house and manage inmates. The primary goal of these corporations is to generate profit, which often leads to cost-cutting measures and questionable practices.

In the southern states of Mississippi, Arkansas, and Louisiana, private prisons have implemented a work program that involves inmates picking cotton. This program has drawn criticism due to its historical and racial implications. Cotton picking has deep roots in the history of slavery in the United States, and using it as a work program in prisons has sparked outrage among many activists and civil rights organizations.

Advocates of the cotton picking work program argue that it provides inmates with opportunities for skill development, work experience, and a sense of purpose. They claim that it helps in the rehabilitation process and can potentially reduce recidivism rates. Additionally, they argue that the program allows inmates to contribute to society and offset the costs of their incarceration.

However, opponents of this practice argue that it is a form of modern-day slavery and exploitation. They highlight the racial disparities within the prison system and argue that using predominantly Black inmates to pick cotton perpetuates a painful history of racial oppression. They argue that such programs do not address the root causes of crime and instead exploit vulnerable populations for financial gain.

Moreover, critics question the fairness and legality of the wages paid to inmates involved in the cotton picking program. In many cases, inmates receive extremely low wages, sometimes as little as a few cents per hour. This raises concerns about fair labor practices and whether inmates are being adequately compensated for their work.

Another concern is the potential for abuse and mistreatment within private prisons. The profit-driven nature of these institutions creates an incentive to cut corners and prioritize financial gain over the well-being of inmates. Reports of inadequate living conditions, lack of access to healthcare, and instances of violence have further fueled the opposition to private prisons and their use of controversial work programs.

As public awareness grows regarding the issues surrounding private prisons and the cotton picking work program, there have been calls for reform. Civil rights organizations, activists, and lawmakers have been pushing for increased transparency, oversight, and regulation of private prisons. Some argue for the complete abolition of private prisons, advocating for a system that prioritizes rehabilitation, fairness, and justice.

In conclusion, the use of cotton picking as a work program in private prisons in Mississippi, Arkansas, and Louisiana has ignited a heated debate about the ethics, fairness, and racial implications of such practices. While proponents argue that it provides inmates with opportunities and helps offset the costs of incarceration, opponents view it as a form of exploitation and a perpetuation of racial inequalities. As the conversation continues, it is crucial to consider the long-term impact of these work programs and strive for a criminal justice system that prioritizes rehabilitation and fairness for all.

Louisiana State Penitentiary

Expanding Prison Labor in Louisiana is Slavery by Another Name | Bridge The Gulf Project

The Louisiana State Penitentiary, also known as Angola Prison, is one of the largest maximum-security prisons in the United States. Located in West Feliciana Parish, Louisiana, the prison has a long and complex history. One aspect of this history is the practice of using inmate labor for cotton picking. In this blog post, we will explore the role of cotton picking at Angola Prison, its historical context, and its implications.

The History of Cotton Picking at Angola Prison

Cotton picking has been a significant part of the labor system at Angola Prison for many decades. The practice dates back to the late 19th century when the prison was a former slave plantation. After the Civil War, the state of Louisiana purchased the plantation and converted it into a prison. The inmates were put to work in the fields, primarily picking cotton.

During the Jim Crow era, Angola Prison continued to rely heavily on inmate labor for cotton picking. This practice was not unique to Angola; prisons across the Southern United States used inmate labor for various agricultural tasks. However, Angola became particularly notorious for its reliance on this form of labor.

The use of inmate labor for cotton picking had a significant impact on the inmates at Angola Prison. The grueling nature of the work, combined with the harsh conditions of the prison, created an environment of exploitation and abuse. Inmates were often subjected to long hours of labor in extreme heat, with little regard for their well-being.

Furthermore, the use of inmate labor for cotton picking perpetuated a system of racial inequality. The majority of the inmates at Angola Prison were African American, and they were often forced to work in fields that were reminiscent of the plantations of the past. This practice reinforced racial stereotypes and contributed to the dehumanization of the inmates.

In recent years, there have been efforts to reform the labor practices at Angola Prison. The prison administration has recognized the need to provide inmates with more meaningful and productive work opportunities. As a result, the reliance on cotton picking has decreased, and alternative forms of labor, such as vocational training and educational programs, have been introduced.

These reforms aim to not only improve the conditions for inmates but also to prepare them for reintegration into society upon their release. By providing them with valuable skills and education, the hope is that they will have a better chance of finding employment and staying out of the prison system.

The use of inmate labor for cotton picking at Angola Prison has a deep-rooted history that reflects the broader issues of racial inequality and exploitation within the criminal justice system. While efforts have been made to reform the labor practices at the prison, there is still much work to be done. By understanding the history and implications of cotton picking at Angola Prison, we can continue to advocate for meaningful change and strive for a more just and equitable society.

Arkansas’s Leading Cotton Production Prisons: Cummins Unit and East Arkansas Regional Unit

Slavery is alive and kicking in U.S. cotton 'prison farms' - CGTN

When it comes to cotton production in Arkansas, two prisons stand out as the largest contributors: Cummins Unit in Lincoln County and the East Arkansas Regional Unit. These correctional facilities have made a significant impact on the state’s cotton industry, providing valuable labor and contributing to the local economy.

Cummins Unit, located in Lincoln County, Arkansas, has gained a reputation as one of the leading cotton production prisons in the state. With a sprawling campus and dedicated agricultural programs, Cummins Unit offers inmates an opportunity to learn valuable skills while contributing to the cotton industry.

The prison’s agricultural program focuses on cultivating cotton crops, providing inmates with hands-on experience in every stage of the production process. From planting and harvesting to ginning and packaging, the inmates gain practical knowledge that can be applied beyond their time at Cummins Unit.

The cotton produced at Cummins Unit not only supports the prison’s self-sustainability but also plays a crucial role in meeting the demands of the local cotton market. The facility’s commitment to quality and efficiency has made it a trusted source for cotton production in Arkansas.

Another significant contributor to Arkansas’s cotton production is the East Arkansas Regional Unit. Situated in Lee County, this correctional facility has established itself as a key player in the state’s cotton industry.

Similar to Cummins Unit, the East Arkansas Regional Unit offers agricultural programs that focus on cotton cultivation. Inmates are involved in various aspects of cotton production, including planting, irrigation, pest control, and harvesting.

By participating in these programs, inmates gain valuable skills that can increase their chances of successful reintegration into society upon release. The agricultural training provided at the East Arkansas Regional Unit equips inmates with practical knowledge that can be applied in the workforce, particularly in the cotton industry.

The cotton production programs at Cummins Unit and the East Arkansas Regional Unit not only benefit the prisons and the inmates but also have a positive impact on the local economy.

By producing cotton crops, these prisons contribute to the overall cotton production in Arkansas, helping meet the demands of the market. The cotton they produce is sold to various buyers, including textile mills and cottonseed processors, generating revenue for the prisons and supporting the local agricultural sector.

Furthermore, the agricultural programs at these prisons create employment opportunities for staff members who oversee and manage the cotton production activities. This, in turn, stimulates the local economy by providing jobs and income to individuals in the surrounding communities.

Cummins Unit and the East Arkansas Regional Unit have emerged as the biggest cotton production prisons in Arkansas. Through their agricultural programs, these correctional facilities not only provide inmates with valuable skills but also contribute significantly to the state’s cotton industry. Their dedication to quality and efficiency has made them trusted sources for cotton production, benefiting both the prisons and the local economy.

The History of Mississippi State Penitentiary’s Convict-Leasing Programs

Mississippi State Penitentiary, also known as Parchman Farm, holds a significant place in the history of the American prison system. One aspect that stands out is its convict-leasing programs, which allowed the state to lease incarcerated workers as hired work crews for various tasks, including picking cotton in the fields. In this article, we will delve into the history of these programs and their impact.

The practice of leasing convict labor can be traced back to the Reconstruction era in the United States. Following the abolishment of slavery, southern states sought alternative sources of cheap labor to sustain their agricultural economies. Mississippi was no exception.

In the late 19th century, Mississippi established the convict-leasing system as a means to generate revenue and control the growing prison population. Under this system, the state would lease out incarcerated individuals to private entities or individuals who required laborers for various industries, including agriculture.

Parchman Farm and Cotton Picking

Inside Mississippi's notorious Parchman prison | PBS NewsHour

Parchman Farm, located in Sunflower County, Mississippi, became a central hub for the state’s convict-leasing programs. The prison’s vast agricultural lands provided ample opportunities for utilizing convict labor in cotton production.

Convicted individuals, often African Americans, were forced to work long hours in the cotton fields under harsh conditions. The state would charge leasing fees to those who hired these work crews, creating a lucrative source of income for Mississippi.

The labor-intensive nature of cotton picking required a significant workforce, and the state prison system readily provided this through the convict-leasing programs. This practice continued well into the early 20th century, with Parchman Farm becoming synonymous with the exploitation of incarcerated workers.

The Impact and Controversy. The convict-leasing programs at Mississippi State Penitentiary had a profound impact on both the incarcerated individuals and the larger society. On one hand, the state benefited financially from the leasing fees, allowing it to sustain and expand its prison system. However, the exploitative nature of the system led to numerous human rights abuses and raised ethical concerns.

Incarcerated individuals were subjected to brutal working conditions, inadequate housing, and physical abuse. The lack of oversight and accountability within the leasing system made it difficult to ensure the well-being of those forced into labor.

Furthermore, the convict-leasing programs perpetuated racial inequality. The majority of those leased out were African Americans, reflecting the systemic racism prevalent during that time. This exploitation of black labor further deepened the racial divide in Mississippi and contributed to the perpetuation of discriminatory practices.

The End of Convict-Leasing Programs

The convict-leasing programs at Parchman Farm eventually came to an end in the early 20th century. Growing public awareness of the abuses and mounting pressure for prison reform led to the discontinuation of this exploitative system.

Reforms in the prison system gradually phased out the convict-leasing programs, shifting towards a more regulated and centralized approach to incarceration. While significant progress has been made since then, the legacy of the convict-leasing programs still lingers, reminding us of the dark chapter in the history of Mississippi State Penitentiary.

The convict-leasing programs at Mississippi State Penitentiary, particularly at Parchman Farm, played a significant role in shaping the state’s history and the larger narrative of the American prison system. These programs, while providing financial benefits to the state, exploited incarcerated individuals and perpetuated racial inequality. The eventual discontinuation of the convict-leasing system marked a step towards prison reform, but the impact of this dark chapter continues to resonate today.


Will Spear, Harvard University, Oregon Health & Science University, University of Massachusetts–Amherst, LSU, University of Wisconsin–Madison, Deaths in Prisons, Mother’s Cookies, a Fox Caught in Tire on Rescue TV at Sustainable Action Now & on SAN TV!

Without a doubt, there are no good laboratories for the animals imprisoned in them. Learn which university facilities are mutilating owls, sewing baby monkeys’ eyes shut, cutting into pigs, and more—then take action to help shut down this senseless cruelty.

For Information about Testing on Animals and Wildlife, Click here!

1. Harvard University

Newborn baby monkeys at Harvard University are torn from their loving mothers’ arms. Some of these infants have their eyes sewn shut, while others are raised by experimenters wearing welding masks. In both cases, the terrified animals don’t see any human or monkey faces for an entire year, damaging their development. This is the work of Harvard experimenter Margaret Livingstone, who conducts these depraved sensory-deprivation experiments to tell us what we already know: Being confined to total darkness is damaging.

A person bottle feeds a baby monkey. Their face is hidden by a black mask

In cruel experiments that have no relevance to human health, baby monkeys in Livingstone’s laboratory are torn away from their mothers and raised in emotionally impoverished conditions, without the possibility of seeing any faces—human or monkey—for a full year.

2. Oregon Health & Science University

Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) is hooked on animal abuse, and it’s time for a serious intervention. University experimenters have given prairie voles the equivalent of 15 bottles of wine a day, and they’ve subjected monkeys to a plethora of abuse within the school’s primate research center. If that weren’t enough, PETA recently discovered that university doctors-in-training mutilate live pigs by using them as human stand-ins during obstetrics and gynecology residency training. They cut into live female pigs, dissect their organs, perform invasive surgeries on them, and then kill any survivors. OHSU apparently isn’t aware that humans and pigs have very different anatomies.

Pig looking at viewer from a barren cage. There are multiple notches in their ears.

3. University of Massachusetts–Amherst

Tiny marmoset monkeys don’t experience menopause, yet experimenter Agnès Lacreuse at the University of Massachusetts–Amherst still zip-ties them into restraining devices, shoves them into plastic cylinders, and implants electrodes in their skulls in attempts to study age-related changes in human cognition. She removes the monkeys’ ovaries and uses hand warmers—yes, hard warmers—on these animals to mimic hot flashes. It’s no wonder that these experiments haven’t amounted to anything useful. The laboratory is only accomplished in doing two things without fail: killing delicate monkeys and racking up animal welfare violations.

Marmoset experiments at UMass

4. Louisiana State University

Birds “born” on the bayou may end up dead in a laboratory, thanks to Louisiana State University experimenter Christine Lattin. Fond of kidnapping and terrorizing wild birds, she conducts experiments that have included feeding crude oil to birds and starving sparrows. In her latest tests, she injects chemicals into sparrows’ heads to damage their brains. She then exposes them to various objects, such as cocktail umbrellas and pipe cleaners, to frighten them and record their reactions. After this torment, she kills them and chops up their brains.

two sparrows on branch

5. University of Wisconsin–Madison

Newborn baby monkeys were torn from the arms of their panic-stricken mothers. Frustrated monkeys mutilated themselves compulsively and plucked themselves bald. Stressed animals were forced to live together in small cages, resulting in fights and injuries. Babies were starved, and their limbs were broken. Animals were killed due to staff negligence. This is a snapshot of life before experimentation for the thousands of monkeys trapped within the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s Wisconsin National Primate Research Center. If they survive these grisly conditions, they will then endure an array of painful procedures. As just one example, experimenters restrain monkeys and electroshock their penises until they ejaculate.

Baby monkeys Cora and Turnip at the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center

6. University of Washington

Cut from the same soiled cloth, the Washington National Primate Research Center at the University of Washington (UW) is yet another ghastly monkey prison with a long history of animal welfare violations. Monkeys have been strangled to death, died of thirst, been mauled by other stressed monkeys, and choked to death on their vomit. To add insult to injury, the center also has a facility dedicated to experimenting on baby monkeys. UW’s other laboratories are also rife with issues, having let animals starve, suffocate, and slowly bake to death under a heat lamp.

7. Johns Hopkins University

Johns Hopkins University experimenter Shreesh Mysore cuts into the skulls of barn owls, screws metal devices onto their heads, inserts electrodes into their brains, forces them to look at screens for hours a day, and bombards them with noises and lights. In some experiments, he restrains fully conscious owls for up to 12 hours in cramped plastic tubes that prevent them from moving. In the end, he kills them. Since owls are nothing like humans, these abominable experiments do nothing to further the understanding of human disorders.

Owl in a cage

This owl is one of many imprisoned in Shreesh Mysore’s laboratory, where he cuts into their skulls and screws metal devices onto their heads in curiosity-driven experiments that have no relevance for human health.

8. Utah State University

In a cruel Utah State University psychology course, rats are imprisoned inside barren metal boxes and blasted with random bursts of bright light while being trained to push a lever to receive food pellets. Although the course had previously used an effective and humane “online rat simulator,” the university made the backward decision to torment animals instead.

9. Simpson College

Simpson College in Iowa also imprisons rats inside tiny boxes. In a psychology course, students attempt to train them to push a lever to receive a drop of flavored water. After the course ends, the rats who don’t get adopted are killed.

“None of us really like talking about that too much,” Don Evans, Simpson’s chair of psychology, said publicly.

Illustration featuring the Skinner box scheme

By Original: AndreasJS Vector: Pixelsquid – This file was derived from: Skinner box scheme 01.png: by AndreasJS, CC BY-SA 3.0

Yeah, don’t worry, we’ll do that for you. We’ll keep talking about this until the university ditches this cruel curriculum and switches to effective, non-animal methods.

10. Lackeys bankrolled by the U.S. Navy: Duke University, University of California–San Diego, University of Maryland–Baltimore, and University of South Florida

The U.S. Navy pays these four universities to do its dirty work and conduct sickening decompression experiments on animals. In tests at the University of California–San Diego and Duke University, experimenters force rats and mice to run on a treadmill and electroshock them if they can’t keep up. Experimenters also lock them inside pressure chambers and induce seizures in baby mice. At the University of Maryland–Baltimore, experimenters lock mice in decompression chambers, probe their rectums, drill into their skulls, and inject chemicals into their brains and eyes. At the University of South Florida, experimenters cut open rats and run wires through their bodies, induce seizures in them, and drill into their skulls. In the end, experimenters at all four universities kill the animals—sometimes by bleeding or gassing them to death.

This doomed animal in a hyperbaric chamber is one of the countless rats who University of South Florida experimenter Jay Dean has used to supposedly study oxygen toxicity in humans, even though human-relevant, animal-free methods are widely available.

This doomed animal in a hyperbaric chamber is one of the countless rats who University of South Florida experimenter Jay Dean has used to supposedly study oxygen toxicity in humans, even though human-relevant, animal-free methods are widely available.

Looking to Do Even More?

PETA’s Research Modernization Deal is a comprehensive plan to phase out all animal experimentation in favor of modern, human-relevant methods. Please voice your support today.



Over the course of the past two years, the City of St. Louis has exhibited an alarming trend within its correctional facilities. Shockingly, at least 10 individuals, who were fathers, brothers, uncles, and sons to their loved ones, have passed away while being held in the jurisdiction’s jails. To make matters even worse, three of these men lost their lives in the last 90 days alone. This disheartening revelation serves as a stark reminder that jail facilities should never be facilities of punishment to the extent that individuals are losing their lives. Of the ten deceased individuals in question, it is important to note that they were not even convicted of the alleged crimes that landed them in incarceration in the first place. This grievous situation demands immediate attention and action to ensure that preventable deaths are not permitted to continue.

EJUSA, with other partners on the ground in St. Louis, is demanding accountability and transparency about what is happening inside St. Louis’ so-called “Justice Center.” Please join us!

The harsh reality is that incarceration is not the solution to our problems. We cannot forget that when we lock someone away in jail, we are effectively isolating them from the rest of society, and subjecting them to unbearable shame and trauma. This experience often makes it difficult for them to reintegrate back into the community, and often fuels the cycle of violence that leads them right back to where they started.

It’s important to recognize that instead of incarcerating individuals, we should be investing in programs that are dedicated to tackling the root causes of violence. By focusing on programs that empower communities and foster healing from past traumatic experiences, we can truly build safer societies.

As a society, we must come together to transform the current criminal legal system and put an end to mass incarceration. This begins by recognizing that we need to do what’s best for all members of our communities, and work towards providing them with the support they need to heal and thrive.

Demanding individuals don’t die while awaiting trial is the absolute bare minimum.

Please join us and others on the ground in St. Louis to demand that conditions inside city jail be improved, those in positions of authority are held accountable for these deaths, and that no more innocent people die awaiting trial.

We demand the following: 

1. Jail warden Jennifer Clemons-Abdullah must resign or be fired. 
2. The Detention Facilities Oversight Board must be given immediate and unfettered access to do its work. 
3. There must be a full transformation of the city’s jail policies and practices including ceasing the use of chemical spray, 23 hour lockdown, adequate and sanitary conditions in the jail. 
4. All information regarding jail conditions, practices, and policy changes must be shared transparently with the public. Anything less than these changes is unacceptable. 

Learn more about private prisons, the Innocence Project, and the criminal justice system.

It has recently come to light that the Ferrero North America brand Mother’s Cookies has displayed insensitivity towards the harm that animals face when they are exploited and subjected to cruel treatment in circuses. The packaging of these cookies depicts images of elephants, camels, and lions as “circus animals”, which unfortunately contributes to the harmful ideology of speciesism. This derogatory language conveys the message that using animals for human enjoyment is acceptable and perpetuates a cycle of cruelty. The depiction of animals in such a manner is offensive and can further desensitize people to the fact that animals have feelings and deserve to be treated with respect and kindness. This messaging runs counter to the belief of many people who recognize the importance of animal rights and strive to promote ethical practices.

The treatment of animals in circuses is not something that should be taken lightly. It is a deeply concerning issue, which sadly involves the horrendous and inhumane practices of separating babies from their mothers, confining them in cages or chaining them up. These animals are forced to endure a constant state of fear and anxiety, knowing that any moment they may be subjected to brutality and torture wielded by the cruel and often heartless hands of the circus trainers. Forced to perform acts that are unnatural to their species, such as balancing on balls, spinning on pedestals, walking on two legs, and even riding bicycles, these animals are robbed of their fundamental freedom to live their lives according to their own natural instincts. It is a travesty that Mother’s Cookies would turn a blind eye to this suffering, and it is high time that we as a society stand up for animal rights and give these creatures the respect, dignity, and care they deserve.

Just last year, Dukal Corporation stopped making bandages featuring images of animals in circuses, joining Nabisco, which redesigned its animal crackers box, and Trader Joe’s, which redesigned several packages to no longer feature images of elephants in circus settings or performing circus-style tricks. Hundreds of venues and dozens of communities nationwide have banned or restricted circuses with animals. Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus returned without using living, feeling beings, and UniverSoul Circus has ditched its cruel animal acts.

Please use the form to urge Ferrero North America to stop promoting animal circuses on its Mother’s Cookies packaging and to be truly animal-friendly by ditching the dairy and confectioner’s glaze—which comes from insects—in its products.

Just three and a half months ago, Texas named Will Speer as the first Inmate Coordinator for the Death Row Faith Based Program. Now, the State plans to execute him on October 26, 2023.

Will Speer is one of the original members of a voluntary, immersive evangelical Christian program for people incarcerated on Texas death row.

Through the program, Will has deeply studied the way of Christ and recommitted his life to Him. He has developed deep faith in God and grown to feel sincere remorse for the violent acts of his past. His newfound relationship with God and the tools he learned in the program have enabled him to heal from the trauma, neglect, and abuse he experienced as a child.

Will now ministers to others who are incarcerated, carrying a message of healing, redemption, and love to people in Texas’s prisons.

Despite all that Will overcame and the positive impact he is making in his historic new role as the first Coordinator for the Faith Based Program, the State plans to execute him in a little over a month. If allowed to live, Will wants to devote the rest of his days to serving as a prison minister.

The answer is that we aren’t against older people in government. We just want to make sure younger people are represented at a level that more closely reflects our population, too. Given the unique issues facing young people today, it’s pretty important that we have leaders who understand where we’re coming from!

Make sure to read more, and then please be a part of electing young leaders all over the country.

Since we launched Leaders We Deserve, there is one question that I keep getting asked. It’s a question I’ve been getting asked regularly since I started my activism with March For Our Lives, where we were an organization run by young people.

“If you want more young people in office — Why do you support Joe Biden?”

Leaders We Deserve is not about young people vs. old people — it’s always been about making sure Gen Z and Millennials have representation that reflects that we make up a third of the country’s population.


Oklahoma Aims to Take Over Private Prisons


Too many prisoners, not enough space to house them. 

Tough-on-crime policies enacted in the 1990s, most notably a 1997 law requiring certain offenders to serve at least 85% of their sentence before becoming eligible for release, caused Oklahoma’s incarceration rate to skyrocket and its prisons to reach capacity. 

Publicly traded companies like the Corrections Corporation of America (today known as CoreCivic) and The GEO Group offered state officials a solution: Pay us a daily per-prisoner rate and we’ll take care of building, operating and maintaining prisons that meet state standards. 

The idea resonated with former Gov. Frank Keating’s administration and the building spree was on. Five private prisons opened in the state between 1996 and 1998, mostly in rural communities. Three of them housed state prisoners while the remaining two took in inmates from states like Hawaii and California. 

Facing backlash over widespread violence inside the private facilities, Hawaii and California started bringing their prisoners back home in the late 2000s and early 2010s. However, the prisons housing in-state prisoners continued to thrive. As recently as five years ago, about 1 in 3 male Oklahoma prisoners were housed in a privately operated facility. 

Private prisons are a familiar foe of criminal justice reform advocates, who question the ethics of tying profits to incarceration and argue that they tend to offer subpar services compared to government-run facilities. In my latest story published late last week, I report that opponents of the facilities have reason to be optimistic: The state is set to take over operations of the Davis Correctional Facility in Holdenville early next month and is positioned to do the same with the Lawton Correctional Facility as soon as next year. 

State corrections department spokesperson Kay Thompson told me a declining prison population, thanks in large part to the voter-approved enactment of State Question 780, has made it more feasible for Oklahoma to wean off private prisons. She said CoreCivic, which has owned and operated Davis since 1996, has been a “good partner” but the state believes it can implement new programs and more efficiently run the facility. 

Other sources I spoke with, including a state lawmaker, corrections worker advocate and family members of prisoners, say they’re supportive of the state’s efforts to wean off private prisons but question the speed at which the takeover is happening. They told me this transition is especially sensitive at a place like Davis, which houses hundreds of gang-affiliated and violent prisoners and has faced a string of murders and violent incidents in recent months. 

While private prisons in Oklahoma and across the U.S. appear to be on the decline, justice reform advocates say there’s reason to be concerned about the privatization of medical care and telecommunications in many government-run facilities. The cost of phone calls and video conferences can add up quickly for prisoners and their families. 

What do you think of the state’s shift away from private prisons? Have a state government or criminal justice story idea you think Oklahoma Watch should pursue? Let me know at 

What I’m Reading This Week

  • People With Mental Illness Are More Likely to Die in Jail. A New Oklahoma County Program Puts Them in Treatment Instead: In recent years, officials have recognized people with mental illness are often held in jails or prisons but don’t receive effective treatment there. While programs are expanding,  a workforce shortage, stigma around treatment and years of financial neglect keeps people across the state from reaching treatment. [The Frontier]
  • Oklahoma State Superintendent Ryan Walters Draws Political Heat, Fines for Recent Actions: Walters is on the hook for nearly $8,000 in fees related to 14 late campaign reports. While he’s far from the first official to rack up violations, the sheer number and his contesting of them is unusual. [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Oklahoma to Continue Lethal Injections as Alabama Pursues Nitrogen Gas: Corrections Department Director Stephen Harper told Oklahoma Voice he’s watching closing as Alabama plans to execute a prisoner with nitrogen gas. State officials explored using nitrogen gas as an execution method in 2018 but abandoned the plan after they were unable to find a supplier [Oklahoma Voice]


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SMH: The rapid and unregulated growth of e-messaging in


A technology that, until recently, was new in prisons and jails has exploded in popularity in recent years. Our review found that, despite its potential to keep incarcerated people and their families connected, e-messaging has quickly become just another way for companies to profit at their expense.

By Mike Wessler  
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March 2023

Over the last twenty years, advocates and regulators have successfully lowered the prices of prison and jail phone rates. While these victories garnered headlines and attention, the companies behind these services quietly regrouped and refocused their efforts. Seeking different ways to protect their profits, they entered less-regulated industries and offered new products to people behind bars. One new service in particular — text-based electronic messaging or “e-messaging” — has experienced explosive and unregulated growth. As a result, rather than living up to its potential as a way to maintain connections between people in prison and the outside world — something that benefits all of us — high costs and shoddy technology have made e-messaging little more than the latest way these companies drain money from incarcerated people and their loved ones.

In 2016, we released a groundbreaking report that took a first look at e-messaging, sometimes — but incorrectly — called “email.” At that time, the technology was experimental, untested, and viewed skeptically by many correctional administrators. Since then, though, it has become common inside prison walls.

To better understand this explosive growth in e-messaging, we examined all 50 state prison systems, as well as the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), to see how common this technology has become, how much it costs, and what, if anything, is being done to protect incarcerated people and their families from exploitation. We found an industry that is in flux, expanding quickly, and has yet to face the legislative and regulatory oversight it desperately needs.

The explosive growth of e-messaging in prisons

When we looked at e-messaging in 2016, the technology was relatively new, having broached the walls of only a handful of prisons and jails nationwide. Today, we’ve found that at least 43 state prison systems and the BOP offer some electronic messaging option.

Like most prison communications services, e-messaging is dominated by just a few corporations. One company has established a particularly firm grasp on this market: Securus, under its “JPay” brand. The company serves half of the prison systems that offer e-messaging, holding contracts in 22 states. The other dominant company in the space, Global Tel*Link (GTL), which recently rebranded to ViaPath, provides e-messaging for fifteen prison systems.2 These two companies dominate more than 81% of the prison e-messaging market. The third most common e-messaging provider is CorrLinks, developed and owned by Advanced Technologies Group, LLC (part of the private-equity-owned Keefe Group family of correctional vendors).

A map showing two companies control more than 80% of the emessaging market.

Tablets are the new “it thing.”

In the early days of the technology, incarcerated users often had to wait in line to use a shared computer (or “kiosk”) to read or send electronic messages. Now messaging is commonly part of a computer tablet package, where each incarcerated user is either assigned their own tablet or checks one out for a set period of time. In terms of usability, this is good news (no one should have to write a letter home with a line of impatient people waiting behind them). But serious questions about the economics of tablet programs remain. These tablets are often touted as “free” but, in reality, are rife with hidden costs. The Covid-19 pandemic has been an economic boon for the companies that operate these programs, yet as tablets become more common, the companies providing them continue their relentless push to monetize every aspect of incarcerated peoples’ communications, reading, listening to music, and formal education. There are also grave privacy concerns when one company controls all communications channels to which incarcerated people have access.

Prices are down…sort of

The per-message price of sending an electronic message appears to have inched down since 2016. Unfortunately, some companies have found new ways to maximize their profits while hiding the actual cost of the service.

In our 2016 survey, the typical cost of sending a message was roughly the cost of a first-class postage stamp (at the time, a stamp was 49¢). We’ve previously explained that the price of a stamp has nothing to do with the cost of providing electronic messaging services, so there is little justification for tying the two products together. The costs to the company when an incarcerated person sends a message should be nearly nothing considering it requires no paper or staff labor, and the many other ways the companies already make up the cost of providing their so-called “free” tablets. Fortunately, linking the price of an e-message to the cost of a stamp has become less prevalent.3

Today, our rate survey found the cost to send an e-message ranges from being free in Connecticut 4 to a high of 50¢ in Alaska and Arkansas, with prices most often between 27¢ to 30¢. This wide range suggests that prices are not tied to the actual costs companies incur to transmit a message but rather set at the point that will maximize profits.

A map showing prices for e-messages are typically between 27 and 30 cents per message.

Bulk-pricing schemes are common, confusing, and harm the poorest people

A frequent tactic used by companies is “bulk-pricing.” About half of the states that offer electronic messaging include bulk-pricing schemes, where customers pay a higher cost unless they prepay for larger blocks of messages. This method has two primary problems: First, it often results in people buying large packages of messages they may never use, ultimately wasting their money. Second, it charges the poorest people in prison — people who can only afford a small number of messages at a given time — the most money.

For example, in Alaska, if someone has the money to purchase 40 messages at once, they’ll pay $14 or 35¢ per message. However, if they can only afford one message at a time, they’ll pay 50¢ per message — a roughly 43% price increase.

Bulk pricing structures like these are common outside of prison and often are an effective way for businesses to sell their products and for consumers to get discounts. But, inside the prison walls, where most people are already economically disadvantaged and have little means to earn money, bulk-pricing schemes are effectively a fee paid only by the poorest people.

These schemes invite the question: Why don’t these companies charge the lowest price possible for every message?

The hidden costs of per-minute pricing

Per-messaging pricing only tells a part of the story, however. Some states use a more complex pricing structure that can dramatically increase the amount people pay, and companies earn from a single message. In these states, people sending a message to a loved one in prison are charged a simple per-message price. However, people in prisons are charged per minute to use the tablet computer to read and respond to messages. For example, in Delaware, GTL/ViaPath charges people on the outside 25¢ to send a message. However, it costs 5¢ center per minute for incarcerated people to read or respond to the message.

This pricing structure is troubling for many reasons. First, research has shown that people in prison often have lower literacy levels, meaning it likely takes them longer to send and read e-messages. Per-minute pricing acts as a literacy tax, making it far more expensive for people who struggle to read and respond to messages. This pricing structure also makes it nearly impossible to assess what incarcerated people are charged for e-messaging and means companies are profiting twice off of the same message — once when someone sends a message to their loved one in prison and again when that loved one reads it. It is hard to determine how many prisons use this model, but it seems to be most frequently used in prisons that contract with GTL/ViaPath. This complex pricing structure is one of the many problems with “bundled contracts,” which give one company control over multiple services in a prison, allowing them to evade oversight and develop new hidden ways to sap money from incarcerated people.

Waiving commissions, unsurprisingly, leads to lower prices

Through years of abusive practices by prison and jail phone companies, many correctional systems developed an unhealthy reliance on “site commissions,” or kickbacks, to make money off incarcerated people and their families. These commissions have, unfortunately, spilled over into other services, like electronic messaging.

It may be distasteful, but it is not surprising that companies like Securus and GTL seek to profit off of incarcerated people and their families — like it or not, it is the type of behavior we’ve come to expect from corporations and why strong regulatory oversight is needed in this space. Our expectations of government are different, however. Governments should be in the business of serving people, not profiting off of their suffering. This is why these kickbacks are such a problem. They unnecessarily drain money from incarcerated people and their families without providing any added benefit.

Unsurprisingly, among states that charge incarcerated people to send e-messages, prison systems that say they do not receive site-commission revenue have some of the lowest prices. For example, the Illinois Department of Corrections only charges 15¢ per message, and the New York Department of Corrections & Community Supervision charges 15¢-20¢, depending on volume.

As state and federal officials debate how much people in prisons and their loved ones are charged for sending e-messages, they should remember that any price that includes kickbacks for the government is higher than it needs to be.

Little is known about how companies use the data they collect

The quantity and sensitivity of information captured in e-messaging systems — from people on both sides of the prison walls — is staggering. They hold two main types of data, personal information — such as names, addresses, and payment card information — and the contents of the messages. However, the technology providers have done little to explain how users’ data is stored, protected, and used. For example, JPay states in its privacy policy that users’ data may be shared “with law enforcement personnel and/or correctional facilities and certain third parties for use in connection with and in support of law enforcement activities.” This vague language gives wide latitude to the companies but few answers to users. By using the product, customers (whether they’re the person in prison or the person on the outside) are handing over their data without knowing who can see it, how they can use it, or what protections are in place to ensure it isn’t improperly accessed.

Other providers, though, are not simply vague about how they handle data. They make data harvesting part of their sales pitch. GTL/ViaPath, the second-largest provider of e-messaging services, advertises to correctional facilities by bragging about its “Data IQ” product, a data-mining technology that the company claims “was designed to handle large volumes of data coming from multiple, disparate sources” to “enable correctional facilities to easily review and analyze the networks, relationships, and connections associated with their inmate population.” The company makes clear it is pumping e-messaging data into its analytics system and using it as yet another surveillance tool that targets people based on nothing more than their contact with an incarcerated person.

While incarcerated people may not have the same privacy rights as those outside the prison walls, they — and the people they exchange messages with — still have a right to know how their data will be handled, and they are entitled to more robust privacy protections than they currently receive. There should be clear guidelines, procedures, disclosure requirements, and protections whenever e-messaging data is accessed by anyone other than an employee of the correctional facility that issued the governing contract.

Making electronic messaging work for incarcerated people, their families, and even prisons

E-messaging can help incarcerated people and their loved ones maintain stronger connections, despite long distances and metal bars. Thus far, though, companies have prioritized profits over functionality.

The service doesn’t have to be expensive, cumbersome, and lacking essential features. There are five things correctional administrators, legislators, and regulators can do to realize its full benefits:

Make the service free.

Electronic messaging has the potential to benefit correctional facilities, incarcerated people, and family members. But to be a win-win-win, the service must be free for end-users. And because correctional facilities stand to reap cost-savings from e-messaging, they should foot the bill.

Traditional physical mail should always remain an accessible option for people to send and receive messages, cards, and other correspondence to and from loved ones on the outside. Unfortunately, citing the costs associated with mail processing, some prisons have waged a virtual war on physical mail by scanning or photocopying incoming mail and distributing digital images or reprints to the recipient (while destroying the original handwritten card or letter). This eliminates the essential human connection of cards and letters and dramatically increases the time between when someone on the outside sends a letter and when their incarcerated loved one receives it. Predictably and for good reason, this has been met with fierce resistance from people on both sides of prison walls.

E-messaging offers a better path that protects physical mail, promotes communication between incarcerated people and the outside world, and addresses the concerns of prison officials about the challenges of processing mail without using harmful scanning technology. By making the service free, incarcerated people and their families will be more likely to use e-messaging for their daily written communications while preserving physical mail as an option. This will likely reduce the amount of mail a facility has to process and deliver considerable cost savings.

Provide better and more useful features

Traditional email is far from perfect, but it offers a model for what e-messaging can be. Prisons should demand that e-messaging providers add features that:

  1. Allow users on the inside to send traditional emails to anyone with an email address.
  2. Support documents, government forms, copies of news stories, and other attachments. Highly sensitive computer systems (like those run by courts and tax agencies) have figured out safe ways to do this. E-messaging companies should get on board and allow users to create, attach, send, and receive simple files like PDFs, website screenshots, and word-processing documents.
  3. Eliminate character limits; they’re restrictive, arbitrary, and technologically unnecessary.
  4. Give users clear ownership over the content of their messages and a simple and free way to export their data to another program, like Outlook.
  5. Allow non-English characters.

Eliminate site commissions.

Even if a prison system doesn’t offer e-messaging for free, at the very least, it should eliminate site commissions on the service. This will lower the per-message cost to users and likely produce savings for the prison. Regardless of whether facilities receive commission revenue from other communications services, they should categorically forgo commissions on electronic messaging.

Allow competition.

Any correctional facility that deploys e-messaging on personal tablets has the technical capability to allow competing providers to add their apps to the tablet. If people have a choice between two or more providers, market forces are likely to drive prices down and improve functionality. The tablet vendor will undoubtedly complain, but facilities have the upper hand. Allowing other apps onto tablets should become a standard requirement of procurement requests.

Define users’ privacy rights.

At a minimum, all correctional facilities should require that e-messaging providers’ privacy policies tell users information is stored, how long it is stored, how it is protected, who has access to it, and what happens if that data is inappropriately breached.



To gather information on messaging availability, service providers, rates, character limits, and features, we relied on five main sources of information about messaging availability, service providers, rates, character limits, and features:

  1. State Department of Corrections websites
  2. Service provider websites
  3. Documents in our Correctional Contracts Library
  4. Creating our own accounts with e-messaging providers
  5. News reports or other anecdotal reporting

These sources are listed in priority order. For example, if a DOC website listed pricing for messaging different from the service provider’s website, we treated the DOC website as the accurate source.

In conducting this analysis, we routinely came across data that was contradictory, confusing, or outdated. While it is tempting to assume that this was the result of sloppy website upkeep, history suggests differently. Early in the struggle to bring down phone rates in prisons and jails, we saw similar patterns in the information that was publicly available, suggesting that it may be a deliberate strategy to evade accountability. Ultimately, this problem was resolved when the Federal Communications Commission and other state and federal regulatory bodies demanded more transparent information — including pricing details — from companies that provided these services. Our experience gathering this information indicates that similar interventions are necessary for this and other emerging technologies.

If we at the Prison Policy Initiative, as people who dedicate our professional lives to understanding and researching these issues, had such difficulty, what chance does a person interacting with the criminal legal system for the first time have at finding clear answers about how to maintain contact with their loved one behind bars and how much it will cost?

Appendix: E-messaging vendors and per-message prices, by state

State Vendor Lowest per-message price Highest per-message price Notes
Alabama Securus/JPay Unknown Unknown
Alaska Access Corrections 0.35 0.50
Arizona Securus/JPay 0.25 0.25
Arkansas Securus/JPay 0.50 0.50
California GTL/ViaPath 0.05 0.05 Incarcerated people in California prisons receive 20 free messages per week.
Colorado Securus/Jpay (inbound only) – GTL/ViaPath (two-way) 0.31 0.36 Price listed is for Securus/Jpay. Price not known for GTL/ViaPath messaging
Connecticut Securus/JPay 0.00 0.00
Delaware GTL/ViaPath 0.25 0.25
Florida Securus/JPay 0.39 0.39
Georgia Securus/JPay 0.30 0.30
Hawaii N/A – no electronic messaging N/A N/A
Idaho Securus/JPay 0.30 0.40
Illinois GTL/ViaPath 0.15 0.15
Indiana GTL/ViaPath 0.27 0.27
Iowa CorrLinks 0.25 0.25
Kansas GTL/ViaPath 0.25 0.25
Kentucky Securus/JPay 0.44 0.44
Louisiana Securus/JPay 0.25 0.30
Maine N/A – no electronic messaging N/A N/A
Maryland N/A – no electronic messaging N/A N/A
Massachusetts CorrLinks 0.25 0.25
Michigan Securus/JPay 0.20 0.25
Minnesota Securus/JPay 0.40 0.40
Mississippi N/A – no electronic messaging N/A N/A
Missouri Securus/JPay 0.25 0.25
Montana Edovo (as subcontractor) 0.31 0.33
Nebraska GTL/ViaPath 0.25 0.25
Nevada CorrLinks 0.30 0.30 Only inbound e-messaging is available.
New Hampshire GTL/ViaPath 0.40 0.40
New Jersey Securus/JPay 0.35 0.35
New Mexico N/A – no electronic messaging N/A N/A
New York Securus/JPay 0.15 0.20
North Carolina GTL/ViaPath 0.25 0.25 Based on feedback to this piece, we updated the price of messaging in North Carolina on 4/3/23
North Dakota Securus/JPay 0.23 0.40
Ohio Securus/JPay 0.20 0.30
Oklahoma Securus/Jpay 0.25 0.25
Oregon GTL/ViaPath 0.25 0.25
Pennsylvania GTL/ViaPath 0.25 0.25
Rhode Island N/A – no electronic messaging N/A N/A
South Carolina GTL/ViaPath 0.25 0.25
South Dakota GTL/ViaPath 0.25 0.25
Tennessee Securus/JPay 0.40 0.40
Texas Securus/JPay 0.42 0.47
Utah N/A – no electronic messaging N/A N/A
Vermont GTL/ViaPath 0.25 0.25
Virginia Securus/JPay 0.25 0.39
Washington Securus/JPay 0.17 0.33
West Virginia GTL/ViaPath Unknown Unknown
Wisconsin CorrLinks 0.10 0.10
Wyoming American Prison Data Systems Unknown Unknown
Federal Bureau of Prisons CorrLinks Per minute pricing from incarcerated people. Free for non-incarcerated people.

About the author

Mike Wessler is the Communications Director at the Prison Policy Initiative. He is the media spokesperson for our campaign to end prison gerrymandering and has authored several pieces that advance our strategic messaging on the issue and highlight state-level victories. In addition, he has contributed to the organization’s work on the financial exploitation of incarcerated people and their families — most recently by authoring pieces on the proposed BOP changes to the Inmate Financial Responsibility Program and the elimination of junk fees.

About the organization

The non-profit non-partisan Prison Policy Initiative was founded in 2001 to expose the broader harm of mass criminalization and spark advocacy campaigns to create a more just society. The organization is most well-known for its big-picture publication Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie that helps the public more fully engage in criminal justice reform. This report builds upon the organization’s work advocating for fairness in industries that exploit the needs of incarcerated people and their families, including those that control prison and jail telephone calls, video calls, and money transfers.


All Prison Policy Initiative reports are collaborative endeavors, and this report is no different. The author would particularly like to thank current staff members for their insights and guidance, as well as former staff member Stephen Raher for the framing and vital research he provided on electronic messaging. The author would also like to thank former staff member Tiana Herring for contributing research support. Lastly, we would like to thank our donors who make this work possible.


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Violent Victimization by Race or Hispanic Origin, 2008–2021


This graphic is interactive. To access data points, hover over the line and select a year. To select multiple lines or years, press and hold ctrl on your keyboard and select desired lines or years.

Note: Rates are per 1,000 persons age 12 or older. Estimates are based on 2-year moving averages centered on the most recent year (e.g., a 2008 estimate includes data for 2007 and 2008). Therefore, estimates may differ from previously published reports where only 1 year was used for annual rates, rather than 2-year rolling averages. See appendix table 1 for estimates and standard errors. 
aExcludes persons of Hispanic origin (e.g., “white” refers to non-Hispanic white persons and “black” refers to non-Hispanic black persons).
bIncludes persons who identified as Asian only or as Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander (NHOPI) only. Categories are not shown separately due to small numbers of sample cases.
cIncludes persons who identified as American Indian or Alaska Native or persons of two or more races. Categories are not shown separately due to small numbers of sample cases.
Source: Bureau of Justice Statistics, National Crime Victimization Survey, 2008–2021.    

During the 5-year aggregate period of 2017–21, white persons (19.8 victimizations per 1,000 persons age 12 or older) experienced a higher rate of violent victimization than the rate for Asian, Native Hawaiian, or Other Pacific Islander persons (9.8 per 1,000) (table 1). This pattern held across all types of violent crime. The rate of robbery victimization for black (2.8 per 1,000) and Hispanic persons (2.5 per 1,000) was higher than for white persons (1.6 per 1,000), but the rate of simple assault was higher for white persons (13.3 per 1,000) than black (11.3 per 1,000) or Hispanic (10.6 per 1,000) persons. 


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