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Courts Cannot Order Federal Prisoners to Participate in IFRP

A federal criminal defendant cannot be ordered to participate in the Bureau of Prisons’ (BOP) Inmate Financial Responsibility Program (IFRP) as part of his or her sentence, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit held on June 11, 2010.

Shabaka K. Boyd was sentenced to 334 months imprisonment and ordered to pay a $500 fine and $300 special assessment. At sentencing, Boyd was ordered to pay the fine and special assessment through the BOP’s IFRP. The IFRP allows BOP staff to collect monthly payments from prisoners toward their financial obligations. Payment schedules are set on an arbitrary basis, and prisoners who refuse to participate in the IFRP lose the ability to work in UNICOR slave industry programs, cannot receive furloughs, are paid only $5.25 a month, and can only spend $25 a month for commissary. Despite all of these sanctions for non-participation, the IFRP is regarded by the BOP as “voluntary.”

Boyd appealed, arguing that the district court’s order mandating participation in the IFRP was erroneous and should be vacated. Reviewing for plain error, the Seventh Circuit agreed.

“The IFRP can be an important part of a prisoner’s efforts toward rehabilitation, but strictly speaking,” the appellate court wrote, “participation in the program is voluntary.”
As such, the district court “overstepped its bounds when it ordered [Boyd] to participate in the IFRP,” the Seventh Circuit concluded. “Boyd’s participation, like that of all imprisoned defendants, must remain voluntary, though subject to the loss of privileges identified in 28 C.F.R. § 545.11(d).”

The judgment of the district court was accordingly affirmed, as modified, with the clarification that Boyd’s participation in the IFRP was “voluntary”. See: United States v. Boyd, 608 F.3d 331 (7th Cir. 2010), cert. denied.

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Related legal case

United States v. Boyd