Stimulus Obstruction in Wisconsin Prisons

The IRS sent me and others a debit card instead of a check for our EIP 2 ($600) and the prison won’t process them or place the funds on our accounts. They require us to send the cards out and find another way to get the funds off them.

-Prisoner in the Wisconsin DOC

For anyone who is unaware, prisoners are not allowed to have credit/debit cards in their possession, so this is a particularly cruel act on the part of the IRS, who in collaboration with the DOC has made the stimulus program a nightmare for prisoners.

For some background, initially the IRS declared that prisoners were ineligible to receive the stimulus. They were still never eligible for the very first stimulus of $1200 that many people received back in April, 2020. When the government rolled out a second stimulus of $1200 in September 2020, Scholl v. Mnuchin, Case No. 20-cv-05309-PJH resulted in a win for prisoners—Phyllis J. Hamilton, United States District Judge from the 9th Circuit made clear that prisoners are not exempt from receiving this stimulus.

Three groups of people leapt into action:

  • Prisoners reached out to all their lifelines in hopes of getting their hands on this money.
  • Advocates mailed 1040s & instructions behind the walls en masse and filed online for as many people as possible.
  • And the DOC and IRS worked tirelessly to ensure they would steal as much of this money as possible.

This whole process has been a slow and inconsistent one at best. Some people filed as early as possible (end of September, 2020) and have still yet to receive even their first payment. While others who filed around that time received their stimulus money within a few weeks. In the beginning of January, the IRS said that anyone who had filed but not received the stimulus payment needed to re-file, causing even more confusion. Some people “received” the payment, but had most if not all of the money taken, so they were unaware that they had technically been paid out. Without a reliable source to check the status of a prisoner’s stimulus payment, many people have filed again—hoping they were just overlooked and that this will be the one that works.

This check was supposed to go entirely to the prisoners, unless they had back child support. The DOC was able to take advantage of a loophole and recoup back fees and other fines or charges levied against prisoners. I know two prisoners who had nearly half of their first stimulus taken, another only ended up receiving a dollar. These are all people who don’t have children.
In light of this, adjustments to the language of the bill have been made and the $600 stimulus will not be taken from people, as explained by a case clerk:

Specifically, Section 272(d)(1) of the Consolidated Appropriations Act provides that the IRS may not apply reductions or offsets under 31 U.S.C. Sections 3716 and 37201A or 26 U.S.C. § 6402, including for overdue state or federal taxes or child support. Additionally, Section 272(d)(2) of the Consolidated Appropriations Act provides that the second round of stimulus checks “shall not be transferable or assignable, at law or in equity, and no applicable payment shall be subject to execution, levy, attachment, garnishment, or other legal process, or the operation of any bankruptcy or insolvency law.” This means that this round of stimulus checks may not be garnished to cover overdue debts by federal or state prisons for any eligible individuals.

After closing these loopholes, the IRS—who didn’t want prisoners to get this money from the very beginning—and the DOC seemed to team up and come up with a new scam. Debit Cards.

For many, the $600 stimulus payment was sent in the form of a debit card, one that they are not allowed to have in their possession. They are presented with the card and asked who they would like the card to be sent to.

What happens next?

The person who receives the card will go online to transfer the funds from the card to the prisoner’s account. This will cost a fee to the service transferring the funds and then since this is no longer “stimulus” money, or it is indistinguishable from any other deposit to a prisoner’s account, the DOC can take their cut—upwards of 35%.

Is there any better explanation for this series of actions taken by the DOC and the IRS than that they simply want prisoners to have less than nothing? From the complicated filing process, to the fact that the DOC from the beginning insisted that their staff were “not allowed” to help prisoners file, to the miscommunications about where the completed 1040s were to be sent, and now this—debit cards. A final “fuck you” to the people in Wisconsin prisons.

The cruelty is the point, pure and simple.

The IRS has since released a memo and sent information to the prison officials, but the damage is done. Many people have already sent their debit cards out to loved ones or trusted advocates. The DOC will get their money from the prisoners, regardless of policy or practices put in place from outside.

COVID Spreader Shakedown at Racine CI

Warden Paul Kemper standing outside his prison.

Staff at the prison in Racine (RCI) are forcing captives to congregate in the gym, and then going cell to cell spreading covid19 by tossing everyone’s property. They do not change gloves between cells, and at least one of the tossed units has gone on isolation quarantine.

Coronavirus is still present in Racine, and at RCI. The pandemic hasn’t magically stopped spreading via surfaces, so guards rifling through everything in an infected but asymptomatic person’s cell will carry virus particles to every cell they shake down subsequently. Read the details about the shakedowns in the message we got from someone held at RCI at the end of this post. Continue reading “COVID Spreader Shakedown at Racine CI”

Sad Tony and the Proposed Budget that Can’t

"I'm not about to cry!"
Tony Evers, tryin’ hard during his little speech for the DNC.

Last week, Governor Tony Evers introduced his new state budget plan, and, as far as the prison system is concerned, it didn’t matter at all. There are some decent provisions included, like legalizing marijuana, expanding TAD funding and closing youth prisons without requiring the construction of new ones, but the proposal falls short of closing prisons and our other defund the DOC demands.

Continue reading “Sad Tony and the Proposed Budget that Can’t”

Questions not asked at the Turner Hall CMI Series

The Milwaukee Turner’s Confronting Mass Incarceration (CMI) is doing a series on restorative justice and circles. This series has featured panels that include prisonphiles like DOC Secretary Carr and DA John Chisolm.

These panels are all done via ZOOM and there is no way to actually live up to the organization’s name and confront these prisonphiles. All questions are put into a chat box and then cherry picked by the moderator, who has a clear priority of appealing to power and silencing every confrontational question. Video of the first panel is up on the Turner Hall youtube page.

After seeing this occur in the first panel, we decided to collect those questions and print them here. So, here are the questions submitted, but not asked of DA Chisolm at today’s panel. Continue reading “Questions not asked at the Turner Hall CMI Series”

New Years Eve Noise Demo Outside Oshkosh CI

Oshkosh CI has had over 1,000 positive COVID19 test results, this is the second highest in the DOC system.

Between March and November of 2020, ten people at OSCI died. The DOC has reported 23 deaths from COVID19 across the system, but more than that have very likely died of coronavirus while undiagnosed. There are 1,494 people currently held in OSCI risking their lives daily. Continue reading “New Years Eve Noise Demo Outside Oshkosh CI”

Assaults at Columbia CI

CW- prison violence, suicide.

For the second winter in a row, people held at Columbia CI have defended themselves against the daily violence of incarceration in that facility. We do not know many details yet, but we’re hearing that on Dec 30 and 31, three staff were severely beaten. The preceding incidents for these specific assaults remain unreported at this time, but we do know that prison is a site of daily violence and dehumanization, and in the face of these events, we affirm our belief that any act of resistance by any incarcerated person against staff is always an act of defense. Our message to DOC guards is simple: if you do not want to get hurt at your job, do not take a job based on routinely hurting people. Eventually, someone will fight back.

Continue reading “Assaults at Columbia CI”

Free Our Loved Ones Action

We joined the candlelight vigil outside Governor Evers’ house organized by MOSES to commemorate those killed by the Governor’s neglect. Around fifty people showed up to the posh lakeside neighborhood, blocking the street, singing and speaking about the hardships imprisoned loved ones experience and the governor’s lack of action to prevent these deaths. Continue reading “Free Our Loved Ones Action”

Don’t get it twisted, Governor Evers doesn’t need our help

Tony Evers and Mandela Barnes held a virtual town hall to discuss the 2021-23 budget in regards to prison and policing on December 8th. He and members of his administration lied to participants and muted people who objected to those lies, undermining their branding of the event as a “people’s budget listening session”. More than 250 people were on the call. These participants were put into seven or more break out rooms to facilitate the collection of public comments. Continue reading “Don’t get it twisted, Governor Evers doesn’t need our help”

Defund the Prisons (abridged version)

Wisconsin prison boss Kevin Carr has both publicly and privately requested that prisoner advocates and anti-prison organizers help him expand funding for programming and mental health treatment in the DOC’s budget.

We emphatically reject his call for help.

Continue reading “Defund the Prisons (abridged version)”