Inmate housing on New York's Rikers Island penal complex. (May...

Inmate housing on New York's Rikers Island penal complex. (May 16, 2011) Credit: AP

Self-service kiosks at Rikers Island, which allow inmates' relatives to deposit funds into accounts used to purchase items behind bars, are reaping hefty fees for the machines' vendors, officials say.

Kiosk vendors charge transaction fees on the tens of millions of dollars deposited each year by inmates in city jails, officials say.

Continental Prison Systems, a Las Vegas vendor that installed four kiosks last month at Rikers, takes $3 for each cash deposit and has a sliding scale that starts at $3.99 for credit card transactions.

Continental is among five companies that have installed the Rikers' kiosks, which are designed to assist the prison's accounting department, said city Department of Correction spokesman Stephen Morello.

A Continental spokesman said its EZ kiosks cut down on accounting errors and more will be added this month to handle bond and bail payments.

"They can take any facility cashless so they don't have the liability of the person behind the counter handling cash," said Gregg Hodge of Continental, which secured a 10-year contract to place its EZ kiosks at Rikers. "Any and all payments that are taken at the window manually can be done at the kiosk."

Rikers has been integrating automated accounting into its services for about three years, Morello said.

The Manhattan Detention Center and Vernon C. Bain Center are other city correctional facilities that use kiosks, Morello said. Visitors can use the machines, which cost the city nothing to install, or go through an attendant at the cashier's window, which charges no fee.

The current kiosk services do not include helping to photograph, fingerprint and deposit the cash of incoming inmates -- something Continental and competitors are jostling to provide for its potentially lucrative profits.

"We're in talks with several vendors," said Morello, who did not disclose the other companies. "That's something new we're looking into."

The EZ kiosks, worth about $10,000 each, are made of heavy steel and have durable touch screens that are destruction-resistant, Hodge said.

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