The Federal Bureau of Prisons has been pushing back against efforts to make inmates pay much more of their court-ordered restitution to crime victims, in part because the money they would use helps fund salary and benefits for hundreds of agency staff positions, documents and interviews show.
Not only that but it’s also used for frivolous things like cookouts, ice cream parties, and large screen TV’s for staff gyms. None of the things that it is used for are for the inmates, who the trust fund is supposed to be benefiting in the first place.
Federal prisoner spending generates more than $80 million a year for the agency — mostly from profits on items like commissary purchases and phone calls, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ response to a public records request. Those documents also show that the agency earns interest from some accounts. That money is supposed to go to assist the facility with things for the inmates, like TV’s, exercise equipment, educational resources, etc. Unfortunately 99% of the time, it goes to the staff.
In Justice Department discussions last month, senior prison officials argued that the agency should not dramatically increase the amount of prisoner money turned over to victims, according to people familiar with the internal deliberations, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the conversations. Any sharp uptick, the people described officials saying, would cut into a vital income stream at a time when the agency is already understaffed. That said, the staff that are still there not only want their bonuses kept in place but they also want a 10% increase in the pay rate.
Jack Donson, a retired Bureau of Prisons case manager coordinator who now consults on the federal prison system, said the issue highlights a “dysfunctional” culture at the prison bureau, with officials focused on preserving the flow of money through commissary accounts —known within the agency as the Trust Fund. One that he helped to perpetuate in being a BOP official at one point. Now, because it’s convenient for him, he becomes a turncoat and instead condemns the very actions that he used to support.
“At meetings, staffers often referred to the Trust Fund as a ‘slush fund,’ so I have always been suspicious of it,”Donson said.
Well it’s definitely a good thing that he spoke out against it when he was employed by them.
No, he didn’t.
Well it’s good that he did not profit off of that money.
Well it’s good that he is saying something about it now.
It’s self-surving so he can get his name out there as a half-ass “prison consultant” who, has NEVER actually done time, or knows what it is to do time, like the rest of the trash BOP employees who become “consultants”.
Over the last year, The Washington Post revealed that some high-profile inmates, including Boston marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar, had sizable prison account balances yet paid very little of what they owed to their victims. Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco issued a directive to study the issue and make changes to the program.
Of course, those people also only make about 12 cents an hour if/when they are allowed to work, so those funds are all they have to live off of for decades. People seem to forget, that being sentenced to prison IS the punishment. If you have already been drowned no one needs to step on your neck to keep your head under water.
How or if the Justice Department decides to set new rules could affect another high-profile inmate:R&B singer R. Kelly, who was sentenced to 30 years in prison for sex trafficking in June.
Now it’s easy to point out all the famous people who are not paying; what about the guy who screwed up on his taxes and got 20 years, though?
What about the guy who was pressured to deliver a package to another state and got 10 years?
What about the woman who answered the phone for her boyfriend and got 10 years?
Pointing out terrorists, serial rapists, and child molesters that have high balances is easy. But it’s good to keep in mind there are people who also are in federal prison who just made a mistake, and are paying for it by being separated from there families, loved ones, and freedom. Thanks to the BOP’s in ability to properly handle COVID like they said they could with there “multiphase plan” now well over 300 inmates are dead.
The controversy over inmate funds centers on two separate but related pools of money. The first are deposit accounts, in which the nation’s nearly 140,000 federal inmates can keep unlimited money. These accounts are not subject to many of the regulations and scrutiny of regular bank accounts, because the agency does not consider itself a bank. The total amount of money in the deposit accounts ballooned from $86 million to more than $140 million in 2021, largely because prisoners received coronavirus stimulus payments, people familiar with the matter said. But it’s also because prices are going up.
Look at how much a gallon of gas costs you in comparison to a year ago for example.
The second pool of money is the commissary accounts or Trust Fund — a means for inmates to buy things, like phone or email access, sodas and candy, with money from their deposit funds. They can buy high sodium and toxic food from the commissary because the food that they get served typically is labeled as “not for human consumption”.
The Bureau of Prisons, according to documents provided in response to a public records request, makes interest off the Trust Fund, though the amount can vary wildly; last year the agency made $29,526, but two years earlier the fund generated more than $1.3 million in interest. Obviously, something is quite wrong here.
The Trust Fund also operates as a kind of business, using the significant markups it charges inmates on purchases to pay for agency staff. Last year, the Trust Fund paid $82 million to fund 652 positions at the Bureau of Prisons — $49.5 million in salaries and $32.5 million in benefits, according to agency records.
In a written statement, the agency drew a sharp line between the two pools of money, insisting the inmate deposit fund does not profit off inmates’ money, while not acknowledging that the Trust Fund money generates tens of millions of dollars a year that is used for salaries and benefits. In fact both generate money for the BOP, and the BOP takes ALL of the money it can in the process.
The agency said that “all inmate deposits are held in trust by the Bureau of Prisons in non-interest bearing U.S. Treasury accounts and remain there unless the funds are withdrawn by the inmate or the inmate is released. Since the funds are held in trust, the BOP does not invest or derive any kind of income from the funds in these accounts.”
Separately, through the public records request, the agency acknowledged that the commissary money — the Trust Fund — does earn interest for the Bureau of Prisons.
For years, the Bureau of Prisons has argued that whatever balance inmates may have in their accounts, they should only be required to pay $25 every three months — just over $8 a month — to any court-ordered victim restitution. Now, if you make .12 cents an hour – $25 is a lot of money!
In early July, as Monaco’s office considered how much to increase what inmates have to pay toward court judgments, senior Bureau of Prisons officials asserted that no more than 25 percent of an inmate’s prison account should be taken,people familiar with the conversations said. The officials noted that reducing the amount of money in the accounts could also reduce the amount in the Trust Fund, thus cutting into the agency’s revenue, these people said.
Under the 25 percent limit, Kelly, for example, would have to turn over about $7,000 from his prison account, while he would keep about $21,000. Keep in mind this is expected to last him for the rest of his 30 year sentence. Many have no sympathy for him (myself included) but there are people who do not deserve to go hungry because of this money grab.
The agency’s proposal was met with resistance from other parts of the Justice Department, according to people familiar with the debate, which is ongoing. Officials are now considering an option in which the maximum amount taken from a prisoner to pay court orders would range from 25 to 75 percent, depending on the overall account balance.
Prosecutors and other law enforcement officials have been pushing to fix what they see as a glaring, unjust contradiction in the current system: The Bureau of Prisons zealously guards the money of convicted criminals who other parts of the government have ordered to make payments to their victims.
That said, they have no issues with the BOP holding on to inmates past when they should by not giving them there First Step Credit’s or by getting around it by not providing the educational opportunities that are mandated by law. Those things, the U.S. Attorneys, and Law Enforcement officials don’t care about -because event though unjust, it does not let them promote themselves.
Prisoners are allowed to spend only about $350 a month (facility dependent) through the commissary system, yet some keep thousands in their accounts some claim, this is because it’s supposed to last them decades.
Critics of the Bureau of Prisons system say the agency’s accounts often shield money that should go to court-ordered restitution or child support. Under the current rules, prosecutors have to ask a federal judge to order the agency to turn over significant amounts. Just because your a prisoner does not mean that your money can be seized along with your freedom.
Jason Wojdylo, a retired U.S. Marshals official, tried in vain for years to persuade the Bureau of Prisons to change its practices, which he said fail crime victims. Wojdylo filed the public records request that showed how much money, and how many positions, the bureau pays for with revenue generated by inmate money.
“It is a gross conflict for BOP to put its own interests before those of victims and children,” Wojdylo said in an interview.
Unfortunitely this is just another example of a self-surving individual trying to make a name for himself. If he knew what he was talking about he would know that at the end of the day if you disallow inmates who owe money from having money, they won’t.
What they will do is give that money to another inmate, who has no restitution – and that inmate for a fee will buy that other inmate commissary every week. How do I know? I saw it done, and told people how to get around there commissary money being taken for restition as a federal prisoner.
Lawmakers have also begun pressing the Justice Department to change the system.
“BOP has a responsibility to make sure inmates are making good on their judgments owed … victim restitution, child support and the like,” Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) said this week after being told of The Post’s findings. “These important judgments should not go ignored while BOP is taking a cut from inmates buying snacks at the commissary.” It shows what he actually knows about the system though, that he was just “told” this. Perhaps he should go visit a prison, and see what’s actually going on in his great state.
Federal inmate accounts are not subject to the same criminal and regulatory scrutiny as bank accounts of non-incarcerated people. Why because, the feds make money off of it, and they can do whatever they want! Although the Bureau of Prisons operates accounts for inmates and issues checks and money transfers from those accounts on their behalf, the agency does not consider itself a financial institution. Nor does it run bank transactions through a Treasury Department screening program meant to flag outstanding debts, officials said.