Rep. Davis joins Rep. Pressley in letter to Bureau of Prisons: Stop Impeding Stimulus Payments for People Who Are Incarcerated

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October 29, 2020
Statements

BOP May Be Defying Court Ruling Allowing Prisoners to Access Stimulus Checks

Read the full letter here

WASHINGTON – Today, Congressman Danny Davis (IL-07) joined Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07) who led a letter to the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) expressing concerns regarding reports that BOP officials may be preventing access to economic impact payments (EIPs) for people who are incarcerated. The lawmakers’ letter follows a recent federal judge ruling allowing those in prison to apply for government stimulus checks under the CARES Act. 

“Whether intentional or unintended, any action to undermine, delay, or infringe upon the rights of our neighbors behind the wall will not be tolerated,” the lawmakers wrote in their letter to BOP Director Michael Carvajal. “It is critical that BOP works expeditiously to clear all barriers in the path of people seeking to receive their EIPs.”

Earlier this year, prisoners were prevented from accessing EIPs after flawed guidance from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) led prisons and jails to intercept payments for inmates and return them to the IRS. The Congressional Black Caucus had led in efforts to urge the IRS to reverse this guidance and sent letters to the agency on July 17 and once again on October 5. On October 19, a federal court ruled against the IRS and the agency updated its website and guidance to reflect the decision. However, the lack of clear, concise and actionable information and resources from BOP continues to be a barrier for individuals who are incarcerated and their families to receive the relief they are entitled to.

In their letter, Congresswoman Pressley and Congressman Davis cited reports indicating that BOP officials may be actively preventing people from learning about and obtaining EIPs. According to the report, BOP in one instance banned a newsletter to nearly 11,000 people that discussed accessing economic relief, while a second email on the same topic to more than 6,700 people was also barred from delivery. BOP justified its actions by claiming the information was “detrimental to the security, good order, or discipline of the facility, or might facilitate criminal activity.” 

“This explanation is fallacious and unacceptable,” the lawmakers continued. “It is absolutely critical that BOP does all it can to ensure EIPs reach individuals in its custody. To deny aid to people who are suffering is flagrant cruelty. And in this case, it is also illegal and contrary to Congressional action and judicial rulings.”

The lawmakers asked BOP to answer a series of questions regarding the agency’s reported efforts to impede access to stimulus payments for those who are incarcerated by November 6, 2020.

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