Giving Compass' Take:
- Keri Blakinger and Joseph Neff explain that prisons are acting as a barrier preventing prisoners from receiving the stimulus money they are entitled to.
- What role can you play in ensuring that prisoners have access to the money they are entitled to?
- Find out why parole-eligible prisoners aren’t getting properly released.
What is Giving Compass?
We connect donors to learning resources and ways to support community-led solutions. Learn more about us.
Thomas Root emailed his weekly legal newsletter from his office in Ohio to nearly 11,000 federal prisoners around the country—just as he’s done every Monday since 2015. That same day, attorney Brandon Sample in Vermont fired off his own weekly legal updates to more than 6,700 federal prisoners—as he’s done for three years.
Within days, the men were flooded with rejection emails declaring that the Federal Bureau of Prisons had abruptly banned their newsletters, saying they were “detrimental to the security, good order, or discipline of the facility, or might facilitate criminal activity.”
What did last week’s newsletters have in common? Citing a recent court ruling, both told prisoners how to apply for the $1,200 economic stimulus checks that much of the rest of the country received in the spring through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act.
The possibility of checks for prisoners has been a contentious issue, with the IRS first allowing and then disallowing the payments before a federal judge stepped in late last month to clarify: Prisoners, too, can get paid.
But according to attorneys, prisoners and their advocates, some prison systems appear to be erecting roadblocks to payments approved by Congress and the courts. Advocates in several states have raised concerns that some prisoners do not have access to the forms they need to apply for the money, and that some officials are not providing information about how to fill them out correctly. The newsletter authors called their suspension last week another sign of the reluctance by some officials to allow the payments.
“I don’t think it’s a coincidence that both of us were putting information out there about stimulus money and magically, a couple days later, we’re blocked,” said Sample, who sued the Bureau of Prisons last week accusing officials of violating his First Amendment rights by singling out his stimulus newsletter dealing with federal law and public money.
Read the full article about prisoners receiving stimulus checks by Keri Blakinger and Joseph Neff at The Marshall Project.