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South Carolina Corrections Department Rolls Out Paykey In Visitation Rooms At Medium- And High-Security Prisons

Posted On: 11/2/2007

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GREENVILLE, SC -- Paykey USA reports that the South Carolina Department of Corrections has begun a yearlong rollout of Paykey cashless payment systems on vending equipment in all 32 of its medium- and high-security correctional facility visitation rooms. This follows a two-year study of the available payment systems and a testing phase.

Two private vending operations and the South Carolina Commission for the Blind are under contract to provide the vending services for all the state's correctional facilities.

According to Paykey, the object is to remove cash from the inmate population. By providing cashless payment systems on venders available to visitors, the department can classify cash as contraband if it's brought into a visitation room.

The Paykey system is based on a sturdy memory device, the key itself, which typically is encapsulated in a plastic fob.

PHOTO: Paykey cashless payment medium is in use throughout South Carolina's correctional system to keep cash out of visitation rooms in prisons. Shown here is the outdoor Paykey Station that dispenses and adds value to the keys; it's a small weather- and vandal-resistant enclosure that houses a glassfront snack machine. The keys are vended in narrow-spiral sleeves.

Under the South Carolina program, the visitor purchases a key for $5, and adds value to it on each visit, as needed, before entering the visitation room. An outdoor weather- and vandal-resistant kiosk, furnished by the state, houses a Crane or Automatic Products snack machine with MDB-compliant control logic. This vender is the "Paykey Station" for the facility; it vends the keys (in candy-bar-shaped sleeves) and adds value to them when needed. Once the visitor has a key with the desired value loaded onto it, he or she can use it to make purchases from any of the cashless machines situated in the visitation room.

The key is preprogrammed to store a maximum credit of $50, which is far more convenient for visitors than the $15 cash limit previously imposed on them.

"It's not unusual for a visitor to spend over $25 purchasing cold food items at $3 per sandwich, and drinks and snacks for the family, while visiting," said Billy Clement of Atlas Food Systems (Greenville), which services a number of the facilities.

Les Perry of A&A Vending (Augusta, GA) reported that the Paykey system was easier to install than he had expected, and it has been problem-free so far. He agreed that it appears to be a win-win for visitors, who now can make the vending purchases they desire, and for the operator too.

The Paykey system not only solved the problem that the Department of Corrections wanted addressed, but -- in conjunction with delivery assurance devices in the machines -- also has virtually eliminated refunds.

Since January, more than 12,000 keys have been sold and now are in use by visitors to South Carolina's correctional facilities. Paykey's proprietary randomly encrypted communication protocol makes for an extremely safe and secure RFID (contactless) cashless medium, the company explained. In use, the key need only be touched against a recessed sensor in the machine front to transfer value and initiate a vend. A suitably equipped machine also can accept cash and write value back to the key. Data are transmitted by induction; no electrical contact need be made.

The Paykey system also is applicable to commercial, industrial and institutional locations. Nearly 100 operating companies around the United States are using the system. "Our customers tell us that Paykey provides a strong customer loyalty aspect that many operators overlook," said Alex Kiriakides, president of Paykey USA.

Paykey will be on display at booth 1461 at the National Automatic Merchandising Association National Expo in Chicago.

Paykey USA is based at 120-D Old Mill Rd., Greenville, SC 29607, tel. (864) 527-4408. Information may be requested by e-mailing