Wisconsin Republicans want to force prisoners to spend their stimulus payments on restitution for their crimes, stopping them from getting direct access to the money.
Co-sponsor of the proposed bill State Senator Julian Bradley told The Washington Post: “President Biden’s irresponsible stimulus package sends stimulus checks to imprisoned murderers, rapists, and child molesters.”
He said that they “are taking action to ensure the victims of these heinous crimes are paid restitution before criminals sitting in prison can profit”.
It’s not clear if the bill is likely to pass and become law. Republicans have majorities in both of Wisconsin’s chambers but Democratic governor Tony Evers has not indicated that he supports the bill.
It’s another step in the row over whether prisoners should receive stimulus checks, a debate Republicans didn’t bring to the fore until President Biden had entered The White House, according to The Washington Post.
Democrats prevented an amendment to the $1.9trn Covid relief bill from Republicans that would have stopped prisoners from getting stimulus checks, the Associated Press reported.
After the first Covid relief bill, the Cares act, passed last spring, the IRS sent nearly $100m in stimulus payments to correctional facilities.
The IRS reversed this in May, telling jails and prisons to stop any future payments. Imprisoned people and their families who had already received the money were told they had to return it.
Many of them joined a California class-action lawsuit which was supported twice by a federal judge who ordered correctional institutions to provide more time and resources for their prisoners to get the stimulus payments.
One of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs and members of the class-action lawsuit, Kelly Dermody, told The Washington Post in October that the Trump Administration “wasted a lot of taxpayer money chasing after checks that were previously properly issued, misleading correctional authorities about eligibility, and filing brief after brief in court trying to stop our fellow Americans from getting stimulus money”.
In a statement to The Independent, the other co-sponsor of the bill, Republican State Representative Joe Sanfelippo said: “Judges will often times order an offender to make restitution payment to their victims. Our bill instructs that the first use of the Covid stimulus funds received by an incarcerated individual be applied to any amount of restitution that may be owed.
“The victim benefits by receiving their court-ordered compensation and the convicted criminal benefits because the debt they owe gets reduced. I believe this is a fair way to handle this unanticipated windfall of money from the taxpayers.”