Submitted online via regulations.gov with research conducted by the Fines & Fees Justice Center
RE Inmate Financial Responsibility Program: Procedures
Benevolence Farm writes to offer comments on the Bureau of Prisons’ proposed amendment to 28 CFR 545 regarding the Inmate Financial Responsibility Program (IFRP). We oppose the proposal in the strongest possible terms.
The proposed amendment seeks to confiscate 75 percent of outside contributions to a person’s commissary account to pay off court-ordered fines, fees, and restitution. If implemented, it will financially devastate thousands of low-income people incarcerated by the Bureau of Prison (BOP) and undermine their ultimate reentry to their communities; it will exacerbate poverty for their families, forcing them to forgo food, rent or other necessities in order to provide for an incarcerated loved one; and, because it is admittedly and unjustifiably inequitable and particularly harms low-income, Black, and Latino people, it will directly contravene President Biden’s explicit policies and directives.
Benevolence Farm works directly with formerly incarcerated women returning home to rural communities in North Carolina. Our residents navigate immense financial challenges post-incarceration — job discrimination, probation fees, wiped credit history, supporting other incarcerated friends and family. They are often financially devastated during incarceration due to the inequitable distribution of labor, exploitative wages, and the necessary purchase of essentials prisons do not provide, such as food, hygiene products, underwear, socks, toiletries, laundry detergent, over-the-counter medications, medical visits, and phone calls.
According to the Who Pays Report, almost one in every four women and two of five Black women are related to someone who is incarcerated. Women also disproportionately bear legal, bail, commissary, and phone / in-person visitation costs, driving nearly 1 in 3 people into debt. These statistics don’t even take into account the cost of caregiving as a result of family separation.
Stripping incarcerated people of their commissary funds, and thereby their access to basic necessities, perpetuates inequities for low-income people, families of color, and particularly women.
This proposal to take 75 percent of outside contributions to an individual’s commissary account penalizes family members and friends in the community who are trying to help their loved ones survive incarceration. Under the new proposed amendment, a daughter who wants to ensure her imprisoned mother is able to meet her daily needs, would need to come up with $400 in order to see that her mother gets just $100 in his commissary account. By extracting this money out of low-income communities, the Bureau of Prisons is actively perpetuating the cycles of poverty that so many families struggle to escape.
The proposed seizure of funds is in direct conflict with the Biden Administration’s policies for racial and economic equality as well as its commitment for rehabilitation of incarcerated individuals.
The Biden Administration has emphasized second chance programs and policies to aid formerly incarcerated people with the opportunity to reintegrate into their community successfully. Although the Bureau recognizes the importance of “planning for reentry, including the availability of financial resources,” this proposed amendment would make it increasingly difficult for incarcerated people to save in preparation for reentry, which we see as a critical indicator of success for formerly incarcerated people in rural communities across the South.
For all of these reasons, Benevolence Farm strongly opposes the proposed amendment and urges the Bureau of Prisons to withdraw it.