Committee Sends Coalition Letter Urging BOP to Re-Open Public Comment on an Inmate Financial Responsibility Program Amendment

Take Action Now – Tell AG Merrick Garland to direct the Federal Bureau of Prison to abandon its proposed rules that disproportionately harm Black and Brown communities.

PDF version available here.

April 4, 2023

Daniel J. Crooks III, Assistant General Counsel Legislative & Correctional Issues Branch Office of General Counsel Bureau of Prisons 320 First Street NW Washington, DC 20534 [email protected]
Re: Request to Re-Open Public Comment on 88 FR 1331 and Submit Information for the Public Record.

Dear Mr. Crooks:

We, the undersigned organizations, request that the Department of Justice and Bureau of Prisons reopen the public comment period regarding 88 FR 1331 – a proposal to amend the Inmate Financial Responsibility Program under 28 CFR 545 – and that this letter be included in the public record. While we understand that the original public comment period closed on March 13, 2023, there is significant public interest in this proposal, as demonstrated by the more than 1,100 comments that were submitted prior to the deadline. Moreover, we have grave concerns that the public record lacks sufficient transparency regarding data and information necessary to effectively evaluate the proposed amendment’s impact and wisdom.

We ask for the public record to reflect that the undersigned organizations believe DOJ, BOP, and the public record lack sufficient data to understand the full impact of the proposed rule amendment and that to move forward without such data would be arbitrary and capricious. Each of the undersigned organizations opposes implementation of the amended rule on numerous grounds, including but not limited to, the harm it will do to incarcerated people and their loved ones, the fact that DOJ has other means at its disposal to address perceived nonpayment of financial obligations, that it contradicts President Biden’s avowed policies of racial equity in agency operations and the administration’s support of successful reentry programming, and our belief that DOJ and BOP lack the legal authority to make the proposed changes.

The Washington Lawyers’ Committee recently filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for detailed and significant data, documentation, and information relevant to assessing the impact of the proposed rule change. A copy of that request is appended to this letter. We believe this data and information is critical to the decision-making process and the public’s understanding regarding this proposed amendment.
We request that DOJ and BOP refrain from moving forward with this proposed rule unless or until the data from that FOIA request is produced, disseminated, and analyzed and the public is once again provided an opportunity to weigh in with a full understanding of the facts.

Respectfully Submitted,

Lisa Foster, Co-Executive Director Fines and Fees Justice Center
David Ayala, Executive Director FICPFM
Galen Baughman, Founder Just Future Project
Thea Sebastian, Director of Policy Civil Rights Corps
National Consumer Law Center (on behalf of its low-income clients)
Southern Poverty Law Center
Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs
Worth Rises
Cc: Lisa Monaco, Deputy Attorney General
Colette Peters, Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons
Vanessa Chen, Special Assistant to the President for Criminal Justice and Guns Policy

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