Norton Introduces Bill to Eliminate Counterproductive Subsistence Fees in Federal BOP Halfway Houses, Which House D.C. Code Felons
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) today introduced a bill to eliminate the requirement that residents at Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) halfway houses (Residential Reentry Centers) pay a subsistence fee of 25 percent of their gross income to offset the cost of being housed. Norton said her bill is particularly important for the District of Columbia because D.C. Code felons are the only local felons housed by BOP and are subject to the fee when in halfway houses. BOP has the ability to waive or reduce the fee, but Norton’s bill would eliminate the fee altogether. A November 2016 Department of Justice memo recommending reforms for federal halfway houses suggested developing a plan to “limit the use of counterproductive ‘subsistence’ fees imposed on indigent residents.” The memo said, “The Bureau’s process for collecting these subsistence fees is costly and administratively burdensome for both [Residential Reentry Centers] and the Bureau, and these fees makes it difficult for residents, who typically earn minimum wage, to meet their other financial obligations, including restitution, fines, and child support.” BOP used to impose the fee on people on home confinement, but changed the policy in August 2016.
“Eliminating costly subsistence fees is a simple way to help returning citizens living at halfway houses save money, pay their way and their obligations, and make the transition back to society,” Norton said. “Astonishingly, the BOP only last year eliminated the fee for inmates on home confinement, during which they cost BOP nothing, making the punitive nature of the subsistence fee clear. This change is a critical reform that could help relieve recidivism and is a particularly important measure for D.C. residents, the only local inmates housed at BOP halfway houses.”