Two Republican lawmakers in the state of Wisconsin have introduced a new bill that would take away the stimulus checks of people in prison. Instead, state Senator Julian Bradley and State Representative Joe Sanfelippo are advocating that each person's stimulus check go toward restitution.
“President Biden’s irresponsible stimulus package sends stimulus checks to imprisoned murderers, rapists, and child molesters,” Bradley told the Associated Press.
“So, Rep. Sanfelippo and I are taking action to ensure the victims of these heinous crimes are paid restitution before criminals sitting in prison can profit.”
If the bill gains traction, it could disproportionately affect the state's Black population. According to the Vera Institute of Justice, Black residents only make up 7% of the state population. However, 29% of the jail population is Black and more than 40% of people in Wisconsin prisons are Black. These numbers will likely increase as authorities continue to lock up residents at an alarming rate. The Vera Institute of Justice found that the overall prison population has risen more than 500% since 1970.
Contrary to Bradley's claims, the majority of people imprisoned in American society are not murders, rapists and child molesters. While violent offenders do have access to stimulus checks in most cases, an overwhelming number of people in the criminal justice system are not violent offenders. A recent report from the Prison Policy Initiative found that 450,000 people are arrested for nonviolent drug offenses on any given day.
Adding on, incarcerated people have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 throughout the pandemic. From California to New York, incarcerated people have lived in unhealthy living conditions during the pandemic. In December, the Marshall Project has reported that one in five or 20% of those incarcerated during the pandemic has had COVID-19. This is double the percentage of Americans the CDC believes have had COVID-19.
Most importantly, incarcerated people, regardless of what they have been convicted of, are allowed to access stimulus checks through the CARES Act. Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers has not yet chimed in with a comment regarding the matter.
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