The United States Bureau of Prisons (BOP) allows inmates to keep large sums of money — in some cases as much as $200,000 — in government-run accounts that are not subject to much scrutiny and are protected from most court orders, according to a Washington Post report published Wednesday.
“There are more than 20 prisoner accounts that each hold more than $100,000 with a total of over $3 million,” a person familiar with the accounts told the newspaper, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
These accounts effectively allow guests to avoid child support, alimony, and other debts they incur.
“Prisoners use this banking system to house this money,” Jason Wogdillo, a newly retired US Marshals service, told the newspaper.
He said the funds are not subject to the oversight of the US Treasury and the Bank of Palestine rarely enforces a law passed by Congress requiring criminals to repay their debts.
Wojdylo said he spent years in vain trying to persuade BOP to change its stance before he retired.
Many prisoners are from poor backgrounds and most prisoners earn little or no money in prisons. Prison work programs pay inmates at least $20 per hour for work and approximately $5.
Inmates can use the money to buy goods from the prison commissioner, or to make phone calls, which cost a maximum of $0.21 per minute, and send emails, although the prison system has faced criticism over the cost of communication services.
Thus, most accounts have little money.
However, inmates can be accused of paying damages when convicted. These amounts can range from a few thousand to hundreds of thousands – even millions – of dollars.
Give this fact, guests are asked to pay a little, the minimum amount, in order to get a refund. The minimum is about $25 a month, Wajdillo said.
He continued, “Those who have thousands, sometimes tens of thousands of dollars in their credit accounts, yet only contribute the minimal compensation and fines required.”
BOP officials are often reluctant to encourage inmates to use their accounts to pay in full, according to documents cited by the newspaper.
Jerry Anthony Bowman, a Tennessee man convicted of bank robbery, reported that one of Bob’s bank employees encouraged him to pay just $100 a month while he was behind bars. By the time he left, he had paid half of what he had.
Bowman tried to pay him $16,000 using his BOP account, but had to ask the judge to take the money from his account.
The request has been granted. However, there is no need to request a judge’s order to transfer money from the prisoner’s account.
A 2008 decision by a federal appeals court said that the Bank of Palestine “does not need judicial authorization to transfer funds from a prisoner’s account, with or without the prisoner’s consent.”
Federal prosecutors are concerned that the funds in these accounts could promote illegal activity outside and inside prisons.
The coronavirus pandemic has virtually halted personal visits to prisoners and the outside world, which some believe will limit drug flows within state correctional institutions.
But drugs remained, according to numerous reports, in part thanks to corrupt prison guards who brought in drugs and other contraband.
They are also concerned about stimulus checks being delivered to inmates, both within BOP prisons and at the state and local level.
The Post reports that 37,852 checks in excess of $38 million were delivered to federal inmates, although it remains unclear exactly how many checks reached inmates at BOP, which is about 129,000.
A BOP spokesperson told The Post that it “recognizes the importance of victim compensation and encourages all inmates to meet their financial obligations by participating in the Guest Financial Responsibility Program.”
However, it cannot compel inmates to pay alimony or child support ordered by state courts.
Wojdylo told Post the Post the BOP that the blowout preventer’s attitude toward inmates’ accounts is “very disappointing.”