MARSHALL COUNTY, Ala. – A battle now rages over who should get stimulus checks, especially for those behind bars.
Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall told News 19’s sister station in Mobile that as many as 2,000 inmates in state prisons received more than $2 million in stimulus money.
He also confirmed inmates are eligible for all three rounds of the stimulus checks.
Dozens of inmates inside the Marshall County jail also received a check.
“If they want to buy socks, clothing, toiletry items, food, stuff like that or if they want to use it to buy phone time to talk to their relatives or families and all that type stuff, then they can do that,” said Sheriff Phil Sims.
Sims told News 19 that only about 44 of the 200 or so inmates in jail qualified for a payment.
Many had already been released, so their checks were returned to the sender.
Arab resident Christopher Hamby said he thinks those payments should be returned to the inmates and state prisoner’s victims.
“If they killed someone’s husband, now that man can’t work to feed his family. They should get the stimulus, not the prisoner. They’re the ones who broke the law. It’s supposed to help the economy, not help the prison economy because that’s all that’s going to do. We should have the money here so that stores can stay open and feed people and keep their food on their table,” said Hamby.
Redirecting the funding to victims is something Marshall said he is currently working on.
“I don’t disagree with that but before we can make them do that we’re going to need some guidance from somebody. As of right now, my understanding is they get a stimulus check and it’s theirs just like it’s yours or mine,” he explained.
Sims said his department has not gotten any guidance on how the money should be spent, so they just put it on the inmate’s books so they can do the only kind of shopping allowed in a jail.
“We all know they can’t go shopping. They can pay their bills while they’re in jail, so it’s kind of a mixed bag of things,” Sims added.
He said if there is any money leftover in the inmates’ accounts when they’re released, the sheriff’s office will write a check to refund the balance.
The eligibility requirements for the stimulus payouts were left broad under the CARES Act, but the law states they must be u.s. citizens or legal residents, have filed a recent tax return, or filled out an irs form to request the payment.