Comment letter: Bureau of Prisons should not trample families’ financial privacy protections
by Aleks Kajstura, September 10, 2015
A couple of weeks ago, we wrote about the Bureau of Prisons’ newly proposed rule, which attempts to circumvent financial privacy protections for people who send money to their incarcerated loved ones.
The BOP solicited comments on the proposed rule, and the Prison Policy Initiative, along with Dēmos, Human Rights Defense Center, and the National Consumer Law Center, sent them a 7-page letter explaining why the proposal was a bad idea.
If you’d like to skip over the details, however, our conclusion gives a quick summary of the problem:
Congress enacted the RFPA [Right to Financial Privacy Act] to provide customers of financial institutions with protections against government intrusion into their financial privacy. Although the statute does allow customers to voluntarily disclose their financial information to the government, it is carefully drafted to ensure that such consent is narrowly-tailored and not coerced. The Bureau’s proposed rule runs roughshod over these statutory protections and should not be adopted in its present form.
Moreover, in the rapidly-changing world of prison-based financial services, there are numerous consumer protection problems that are in acute need of attention. It is, therefore, disappointing that the Bureau has chosen to focus its efforts on eroding privacy protections instead of proposing regulatory changes that would benefit incarcerated people and their families by curbing financially abusive practices.
The comment period ended two days ago, but there’s no word yet on when a final decision will be made.