Sending Office: Honorable Eleanor Holmes Norton
As the House considers the CJS Division of H.R. 3354, the Make America Secure and Prosperous Appropriations Act of 2018, I urge you to vote YES on my amendment (117) prohibiting the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) from using funds to carry out a law that
requires individuals in halfway houses or on home confinement to pay a subsistence fee. The amendment would improve reentry and reduce recidivism for our returning citizens.
The fee for residents in halfway houses is 25 percent of their income. I appreciate that BOP has already shown that this fee is unnecessary and counterproductive by eliminating the fee for individuals on home confinement. If returning citizens are able
to find work at all, they are fortunate, but those would almost certainly be in minimum-wage jobs, so the loss of 25 percent of their paychecks to subsistence fees would be a significant hurdle to successful reentry, making it extremely difficult to save money
to pay rent, child support or fines and fees associated with their conviction, such as restitution. Far from promoting financial responsibility, subsistence fees actually prevent returning citizens from meeting their financial obligations. Congress should
not be imposing additional burdens on returning citizens, setting them up to fail. Jobs and affordable housing are crucial to successful reentry. Charging subsistence fees is antithetical to this goal.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) itself has recommended eliminating this fee. A November 2016 DOJ memorandum recommended developing a plan to “limit the use of counterproductive ‘subsistence’ fees imposed on indigent residents.” It further stated, “[t]he
Bureau [of Prison]’s process for collecting these subsistence fees is costly and administratively burdensome for both [halfway houses] and the Bureau, and these fees make it difficult for residents, who typically earn minimum wage, to meet their other financial
obligations, including restitution, fines, and child support.”
Moreover, the Congressional Budget Office concluded that this amendment would have no budgetary effect.
Again, I urge to vote YES on my amendment to reduce recidivism and encourage reentry.
Eleanor Holmes Norton
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