| October 29, 2018
Norton Presses BOP on Subsistence Fees Charged to Returning Citizens in Federal Halfway Houses, Which House D.C. Residents
WASHINGTON, D.C.—The office of Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) today released Norton’s letter to Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) Acting Director Hugh J. Hurwitz requesting that he provide information on the fees that BOP charges returning citizens while they live in federally-controlled and funded Residential Reentry Centers (RRCs), commonly referred to as halfway houses. The BOP currently charges returning citizens up to 25 percent of their gross income through these fees. District of Columbia Code felons are the only local felons housed by BOP and are subject to the fee when in halfway houses. Norton has introduced legislation that would eliminate these fees.
In her letter, Norton wrote, “I continue to hear about hardships caused by the BOP’s fee collection procedures, including lack of information, haphazard collection practices and failure to seek waivers when appropriate. I am requesting more detailed information about how the system works… so that I may better advise my constituents.”
She wrote that answers to the series of questions she proposed could help her provide needed information to returning D.C. citizens as well as understand BOP’s need for money from those reentering society.
Norton’s full letter is below.
Hugh J. Hurwitz
Federal Bureau of Prisons
320 First Street NW
Washington, DC 20534
Dear Acting Director Hurwitz:
I write to express my continued concerns with the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ (BOP) practice of garnishing 25 percent of the gross wages of residents in federally-controlled Residential Reentry Centers (RRCs), commonly known as halfway houses. In explaining this practice, which erects yet another barrier to reentering the community, you indicated that the BOP counted on those funds for its operating expenses due to budgetary limitations. You also noted that the BOP waives these “subsistence fees” if they would cause an “undue burden.”
I continue to hear about hardships caused by the BOP’s fee collection procedures, including lack of information, haphazard collection practices and failure to seek waivers when appropriate. I am requesting more detailed information about how the system works, as outlined in the questions below, so that I may better advise my constituents.
First, I would appreciate a more detailed explanation of how the subsistence fees paid by halfway house residents are returned to the BOP. According to the Department of Justice Inspector General’s audit of RRCs in November 2016, the BOP had 181 RRCs operated by 103 different contractors. To understand the BOP’s need for money from those reentering society, please provide the following information:
1. A list of all RRCs in the United States with contractor name, facility address, per diem rate and amount collected as subsistence fees by each facility from October 1, 2017, to September 30, 2018; and
2. The monthly billing records from October 1, 2017, to September 30, 2018, for each facility located within 300 miles of the District of Columbia, including the collection records (pay stubs, etc.) for each person, as is required by the Statement of Work for each facility.
In addition, please provide your procedures for sharing information with residents by providing our offices with the following:
1. The number of subsistence fee waivers granted in the last three fiscal years, including the facility that obtained the waiver, the amount of the reduction and the reason for it;
2. Copies of any written information given to people leaving prison for an RRC that explains the fee system and how to apply for a waiver;
3. Copies of any BOP internal or external guidance explaining the waiver process; and
4. A description of the safeguards in place to ensure people who have already been assessed a Cost of Incarceration Fee do not have to pay the fee, as described in Program Statement 5380.06.
As all of the information I have requested should be readily available, given the reporting requirements of the BOP’s Scope of Work for RRCs, I request that you respond to this letter within 30 days. I look forward to working with you to develop a reentry system that serves returning citizens and taxpayers with equal effectiveness.
Eleanor Holmes Norton