Republican Lawmakers Look to Redirect Inmates' $1,400 Stimulus Checks to Their Victims

People who are incarcerated are set to receive a $1,400 stimulus check, but Republican state senators are looking to siphon those funds if they owe money to their victims.

Inmates are eligible for the third round of economic impact payments under the American Rescue Plan, as was the case for the first two rounds. Republicans in Congress pushed back against incarcerated people receiving payments, and GOP legislators on the state level are trying to redirect the funds to pay restitution.

In Missouri, state Senator Tony Luetkeymeyer, the majority caucus whip, is sponsoring legislation that would block inmates from receiving stimulus money if they haven't fully paid what is owed to any of their victims.

"Allowing prisoners to benefit from these programs, which were intended to help people reeling from job loss and economic devastation, is wrong," Luetkeymeyer told Newsweek. "If these checks are going to be allowed to go to prisoners, then victims should be the first in line to receive compensation from those checks.

None of the relief packages explicitly prohibited inmates from receiving an economic impact payment, but the IRS attempted to withhold payments last year. The agency claimed incarcerated people weren't eligible under the Social Security Act and informed inmates who received payments to return them.

However, in October, a California judge ruled that incarcerated people were eligible and that the IRS had to issue payments to them.

Republicans have more than double the number of seats than Democrats in the Missouri Senate, and if the party unifies, they could pass Luetkeymeyer's bill without Democrat support. The same is true of the state House of Representatives, and Luetkeymeyer said he's "optimistic" the "commonsense measure" could find a path through the Senate.

In Wisconsin, another Republican state senator is looking to pass a similar measure. Julian Bradley is co-sponsoring legislation that would require stimulus checks be used to pay any owed restitution before going into inmates' pockets.

"There is money coming in that wasn't expected for the criminals, the murderers, the rapists, etc., that are locked up. So we can use that money to start paying some restitution to the people who desperately need some help," Bradley told WTMJ.

Bradley said the legislation is about "ensuring they get the brand of justice" that was court-ordered. Republicans have control of both chambers of Wisconsin's legislature but they'd likely need support for the bill from the other side of the aisle because making it law requires a signature from Governor Tony Evers, a Democrat.

State Senator Lena Taylor, a Democrat, told WTMJ she agreed incarcerated people need to pay restitution but had an issue with garnishing 100 percent of the stimulus check. That $1,400 payment, she said, could help prepare incarcerated people for when they get ready for release.

stimulus check inmates restitution republicans
Republican state lawmakers in Wisconsin and Missouri are looking to redirect inmates' stimulus checks to their victims if they owe restitution. Economic stimulus checks are prepared for printing at the Philadelphia Financial Center in Philadelphia. Jeff Fusco/Getty Images