In Justice Department discussions last month, senior prison officials argued that the agency should not significantly increase the amount of prisoner money being handed to victims, according to people familiar with the internal deliberations, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the conversations. Any sharp increase, officials described, would reduce the flow of vital income at a time when the agency is already suffering from a shortage of staff.
Jack Donson, a retired Bureau of Prisons case manager coordinator who now consults on the federal prison system, said the case highlights a “dysfunctional” culture in the prison office, with officials focused on keeping money flowing through commissioners’ accounts — Known within the agency as the “Trust Fund”.
“In meetings, employees often refer to the trust as a ‘stray fund,’ so I’ve always been skeptical about it,” Dunson said.
Bureau of Prisons prisoners accounts have more than $100 million, with little to be paid to victims
Over the past year, the Washington Post has revealed that some high-profile inmates, including Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and former American gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar, had large balances in prison accounts yet paid very little of what they owed their victims. Deputy Public Prosecutor Lisa O Monaco issued a directive to study the case and make changes to the programme.
How, or if the Department of Justice decides to create new rules that could affect another high-ranking inmate: Kelly, an R&B singer, who was sentenced in June to 30 years in prison for sex trafficking. Kelly has about $28,000 in his prison account, according to several people familiar with the case, and he owes $140,000 in court-ordered fines, including a $40,000 fine to a fund for victims of human trafficking, according to court records. Prosecutors have not yet asked the judge to get the Bureau of Prisons to hand over the money.
The controversy over prisoner money centers on two separate but related pools of money. The first is deposit accounts, where the country’s 140,000 federal prisoners can keep an unlimited amount of money. These accounts are not subject to the many regulations and scrutiny of normal bank accounts because the agency does not consider itself a bank. People familiar with the matter said the total amount of money in deposit accounts ballooned from $86 million to more than $140 million in 2021, in large part because inmates received stimulus payments for the coronavirus.
The second set of funds is the exchange accounts, or Trust Fund – a way for guests to buy things, such as phone or email access, soft drinks and candy, with money from their deposit money.
The Bureau of Prisons, according to documents submitted in response to a public records request, makes the benefit out of the trust, although the amount can vary widely; Last year, the agency made only $29,526, but two years earlier than the fund It generated more than $1.3 million in interest.
The trust also operates as a kind of business, using the large profit margins it charges inmates on purchases to pay the agency’s staff. Last year, the trust fund paid out $82 million in financing 652 Bureau of Prisons positions — $49.5 million in salaries and $32.5 million in benefits, according to agency records.
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In a written statement, the agency drew a sharp line between the two sets of funds, insisting that the inmates’ trust fund does not earn inmates’ money, while not acknowledging that the trust’s money generates tens of millions of dollars annually that are used. for salaries and benefits.
The agency said, “All inmates’ deposits are held in trust with the Bureau of Prisons in US Treasury accounts without interest and remain there unless the money is withdrawn by the inmate or the inmate is released. Since the money is held in a trust fund, Bank of Palestine does not invest or generate any Some kind of income from the money in these accounts.”
Separately, by requesting public records, the agency acknowledged that delegates’ money – the trust fund – was gaining interest for the Bureau of Prisons.
For years, the Bureau of Prisons has argued that whatever the balance of inmates in their accounts may be, they should only be required to pay $25 quarterly — just over $8 per month — for any court-ordered victim compensation.
In early July, when the Monaco office considered how much more inmates would have to pay for court rulings, senior officials of the Bureau of Prisons asserted that no more than 25 percent of inmates’ accounts should be taken at the prison, 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, and thus reduce the agency’s revenue, those 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.
The agency’s proposal has been met with resistance by other parts of the Justice Department, according to people familiar with the ongoing debate. The Monaco office is considering an option in which the maximum amount taken from the prisoner to pay court orders ranges from 25 to 75 percent, depending on the total account balance.
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Prosecutors and other law enforcement officials have been pressing to fix what they see as a stark and unfair contradiction in the current system: the Bureau of Prisons zealously guards the money of convicted criminals who have been ordered by other parts of the government to make payments to their victims.
Prisoners are only allowed to spend about $400 per month through the pool system, yet some keep several thousand in their accounts. The Post reported last year that more than 20 inmates had prison account balances in excess of $100,000 each. It can be difficult for convicts to obtain a traditional bank account.
Critics of the Bureau of Prisons system say the agency’s accounts often protect money that should go to court-ordered damages or child support. Under current rules, plaintiffs must ask a federal judge to order the agency to hand over large sums.
Jason Wogdillo, a retired Field Marshal official, has tried for years to persuade the Bureau of Prisons to change its practices, which he said are failing crime victims. Wojdylo filed a public records request that showed how much money and how many jobs the office paid from the revenue generated by prisoners’ money.
“It is a stark contradiction for the BOP to put its own interests before the interests of victims and children,” Wojdillo said in an interview.
Lawmakers also began pressuring the Justice Department to change the system.
Senator Charles E. . “These important provisions should not be ignored while BOP reduces inmates’ purchase of snacks at the complex.”
In the Tsarnaev and Nassar cases, prosecutors eventually filed court papers to obtain a judge’s order to force the agency to hand over funds to cover larger payments. Before they did, Nassar had spent more than $10,000 of his prison account on other purchases, according to a court filing, While victims are paid about $100 a year. He had been ordered to pay tens of thousands of compensation.
By the time prosecutors asked the judge to confiscate Tsarnaev prison money in January, he had received $21,000 in deposits, including $1,400 in relief money from the federal government. He spent all but about $4,000 on purchases from the trust.
In another earlier case, a Tennessee bank robber wrote to a federal judge saying that Bureau of Prisons officials were preventing him from paying what he owed his victims. He asked the judge to mediate and force the agency to pay them his money.
Federal inmates’ accounts are not subject to the same criminal and regulatory scrutiny as bank accounts for non-incarcerated people. Although the Bureau of Prisons manages accounts for inmates and issues checks and money transfers from those accounts on their behalf, the agency does not consider itself a financial institution. It also does not operate bank transactions through a Treasury screening program designed to identify outstanding debts, officials said.
The agency said it cannot get inmates to comply with state court orders on payments such as child support or alimony, but that it incentivizes them to do so through regular payment plans.