LANSING, Mich — They’re serving life sentences for murder while collecting federal stimulus checks. The Michigan attorney general says 32,000 inmates are now in state prison, and they’re going after stimulus dollars paid to 125 of them. The money, they say, the state is entitled to.
Among the cases are Lonnie Charles Williams and Tracy Wright. Both men are locked up for life on murder convictions and received $3,200 in funds. Recently, a Wayne County judge determined they should reimburse as much as 90% to the state at the request of the Michigan AG.
“We need to remember that all people are impacted by the COVID crisis, and that they are human beings too,” says Raquel Castaneda Lopez from Detroit City Council, who supports the economic payments to inmates. “They are helping their families and contributing in other ways.”
At a rate of 30,000 to 40,000 a year, the state is currently paying to feed and house inmates. Macomb County Sheriff Anthony Wickersham says for it to be fair, the prisoners need to be paying their fair share.
“There are too many people who are struggling to make ends meet, and these inmates are living at the expense of taxpayers,” he said.
The Michigan attorney general says the checks themselves are not being targeted, rather the efforts are based on resources and similar to the collection of pension and other income. Parolees are also subject to evaluation.
While the Cares Act & American Rescue Plan are subject to collections, money from the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 is not.
We’ve also reached out to the IRS for comment on this story and are waiting to hear back.