News & Politics

GOP Bill in Wisconsin Would Require Stimulus Money From Prisoners to Go Toward Restitution

AP Photo/Seth Wenig

A bill introduced by two Wisconsin state senators mandates that the stimulus money received by prisoners be used for restitution to the victims of their crimes.

Sen. Julian Bradley and Rep. Joe Sanfelippo introduced the bill that duplicates an effort made by Republicans at the federal level who tried to attach an amendment to the pandemic relief bill passed by Congress that would have prohibited prisoners from receiving any stimulus money.

“President Biden’s irresponsible stimulus package sends stimulus checks to imprisoned murderers, rapists, and child molesters,” Bradley said. “So, Rep. Sanfelippo and I are taking action to ensure the victims of these heinous crimes are paid restitution before criminals sitting in prison can profit.”

Even if the pair are unsuccessful, prisoners getting the stimulus money in their hands is a little more complicated.

WFAA:

None of the three stimulus packages, passed to relieve economic stress from COVID-19, contain language that prevents payments to those who are incarcerated.

That includes the first two signed into law by then-President Donald Trump in 2020, both of which each received yes votes from Cotton and CassidyCruz voted for the CARES Act in March 2020 but not H.R. 133 in December 2020.

Although prisoners have been eligible for stimulus money, that doesn’t mean they’ve actually received it.

There are some willing to prevent this travesty from happening.

With the $1,200 per person stimulus checks provided under the CARES Act, the IRS deducted money for back child support from prisoners’ checks, says attorney Kelly M. Dermody of Lieff Cabraser Heimann and Bernstein. Once the checks landed at prisons, authorities often took out more funds for fees and restitution owed by an inmate, Dermody says. She led the successful class-action challenge on behalf of prisoners and against the Trump administration when the IRS quit sending the checks to prisoners and then demanded that those who got sent checks return the money.

In the second round of stimulus checks, approved in December, the IRS and prisons were barred from taking funds from prisoners’ money, which was sent on debit cards. The catch: the cards were useless for inmates. To receive the stimulus money, the inmates have to fill out a 1040 tax return for 2020 requesting a “recovery rebate.” However, by filing the tax return, prisoners are subject once again to having their checks docked for child support, back taxes, restitution and fees, Dermody says.

On the third round, Dermody says, the eligibility requirements are “the exact same” as for the previous stimulus packages. Still, it’s unclear yet whether child support and other “offsets” will be taken out of the inmates’ funds.

Expect the lawyers to get busy very soon to make sure “murderers, rapists, and child molesters” get their stimulus money too.