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Judge Enjoins Collection of Cost of Incarceration Fees From Federal Prisoner in Washington State Prison

On February 25, 2008, Judge William Thomas McPhee of the Thurston County Superior Court entered an injunction prohibiting the Washington Department of Corrections (DOC) from withholding cost of incarceration and crime victim compensation from a federal prisoner serving time in the DOC.

Harry Whitman was transferred to the custody of the DOC pursuant to an intergovernmental agreement between the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) and the DOC. While serving his federal sentence in the DOC, the DOC began deducting cost of incarceration and crime victim compensation from money Whitman earned or received.

Whitman sought injunctive relief, arguing that the deductions violated state and federal law, and his due process rights under the United States and Washington constitutions.

Judge McPhee agreed with Whitman that he was not subject to the collection of the fees. McPhee based his decision primarily on the fact that Whitman’s federal sentencing judge waived the imposition of a fine, and the language of the intergovernmental agreement which required the DOC to provide Whitman with the same rights he would have if confined in the BOP. In the BOP, a cost of incarceration fee may not be collected when a court waives a fine.

By exempting Whitman, the DOC argued that it would be violating the “equal treatment” provision of the intergovernmental agreement. Judge McPhee disagreed, holding that the DOC was acting “solely as an agent” for the BOP and as such, Whitman’s rights were defined by the BOP. See: Whitman v. State of Washington, Thurston Co. No. 05-2-02279-2 (Sup. Ct. Wash.). The unpublished decision is available on PLN’s website.

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Related legal case

Whitman v. State of Washington

Please see the brief bank for a copy of the court's decision.