A recent ruling from a district court for the Northern District of California confirmed that inmates are eligible for the coronavirus stimulus checks granted under the CARES Act. However, it is being reported that some prison systems are indirectly blocking inmates from claiming their coronavirus stimulus checks.
The Federal Bureau of Prisons is banning the newsletters sent to prisoners around the country, The Marshall Project says, citing several lawyers and prisoners. The Marshall Project is a nonprofit news organization covering the U.S. criminal justice system.
The lawyers say that they have been sending newsletter for years, and that this has never happened before. Their newsletters are being rejected with a message that they are “detrimental to the security, good order, or discipline of the facility, or might facilitate criminal activity.”
Further, the lawyers say a likely reason why the newsletters are rejected is that they include words on the recent court ruling that make prisoners eligible for the first coronavirus stimulus checks, as well as the procedure to claim the payment.
Stimulus checks for prisoners have been a contentious issue from the start. The CARES Act didn’t ban prisoners from getting the stimulus payment. However, the IRS later announced that prisoners are not eligible for checks.
The IRS, at the time, cited a different law that prevents prisoners from getting monthly Social Security benefits. Now, the federal judge ruled last month that prisoners are eligible for stimulus checks.
Despite the ruling, attorneys, prisoners and their advocates say that some prison systems have come up with roadblocks for payments. They argue that some prisoners don’t have access to the forms that are required to apply for the stimulus payment. Also, the officials are reportedly not helping the inmates on how to fill out the form, claims The Marshall Project.
There have also been complaints that federal prisoners had to pay to get the forms printed, and that printers are usually not accessible or in working condition.
“I don’t think it’s a coincidence that both of us were putting information out there about stimulus money and magically, a couple days later, we’re blocked,” said attorney Brandon Sample in Vermont, who regularly sends weekly legal updates to more than 6,700 federal prisoners.
Sample, last week, sued the Bureau of Prisons, accusing it of violating his First Amendment rights by blocking the newsletter that talks about federal law and public money. According to Sample, a government lawyer in response to his lawsuit, said that his newsletter got deleted by mistake.
Though newsletters were unblocked later, Sample claims the bureau wasn’t able to recover their mailing lists. This means that every subscriber to the newsletter needs to sign up again.
“I don’t think anything the agency is saying is true,” Sample said.