Return to the USDOJ/OIG Home Page
Return to the Table of Contents

The Federal Bureau of Prisons' Inmate Financial Responsibility Program
Report Number I-2000-023
September 2000


The BOP has developed and implemented the IFRP in a manner that generally encourages inmates to make payments toward their court-ordered financial obligations. In the four BOP institutions we visited, unit staff devoted considerable effort to developing the inmates' sense of responsibility and seeking the inmates' voluntary payment of their obligations through the IFRP. The staff's efforts at these four institutions have maximized the rate of inmate participation in the IFRP and completion of payments for financial obligations.

The BOP was responsive to our 1994 inspection report on the IFRP. During our recent site visits, we verified that BOP had implemented quality review procedures to assist the institutions in detecting and correcting IFRP problems. We also verified that the institutions' unit staff obtained clarification from the U.S. Probation Office when court orders did not explicitly state whether financial obligations were due while incarcerated or upon supervised release. Unit staff stated that they sought clarification of ambiguous court orders; however, the inmate files we reviewed did not reflect instances where clarification was necessary.

The BOP continues to improve program implementation. After our visits to the institutions, BOP issued updated guidance for the IFRP-Program Statement 5380.07, January 3, 2000-that addressed some of the program areas we had identified for corrective action. Those areas included (1) clarifying the IFRP status of inmates who have financial obligations but do not have the financial resources to make payments due to conditions beyond the inmates' control, (2) improving the IFRP payment procedures for inmates employed in UNICOR, and (3) limiting commissary spending (excluding certain purchases) for inmates who refuse to participate in the IFRP.

Implementation of IFRP Guidance Can Be Improved

We reviewed a total of 486 inmate files at the Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) Fort Dix, New Jersey; the United States Penitentiary (USP) Lewisburg, Pennsylvania (including the Camp and Intensive Confinement Center); USP Leavenworth, Kansas; and FCI Florence, Colorado (including the Camp). The IFRP assignments for these 486 inmates are shown in Table 2.

Table 2. Number of Inmates by IFRP Category in the Sample

IFRP Category FCI
Fort Dix
Participate 52 46 35 32 165
Refuse 51 36 9 16 112
Complete 59 32 17 10 118
Exempt Tmp 1 1 2 10 14
No Obligation 27 16 7 6 56
Unassigned 15 2 2 2 21
Total 205 133 72 76 486
Source:  Institution inmate files.
aIncludes the Camp and Intensive Confinement Center.
bIncludes the Camp.

The 486 inmates in our sample owed financial obligations totaling $18,614,784. Table 3 shows, by institution and type of financial obligation, the total amounts owed by these 486 inmates.

Table 3. Types and Amounts of Financial Obligations Owed by Inmates in the Sample

  Financial Obligations Owed
Institution Assessments Restitution Fines State/Local Obligations Other Federal Obligations Totalc
FCI Fort Dix $25,710 $507,864 $190,550 $0 $2,535 $726,659
USP Lewisburga $26,360 $7,373,904 $655,503 $0 $41 $8,055,807
USP Leavenworth $14,700 $1,570,615 $2,566,642 $7,600 $0 $4,159,557
FCI Florenceb $9,550 $1,547,926 $4,107,190 $8,096 $0 $5,672,761
Total $76,320 $11,000,308 $7,519,885 $15,696 $2,576 $18,614,784
Source: Institution inmate files.
aIncludes the Camp and Intensive Confinement Center.
bIncludes the Camp.
cThis amount includes financial obligations ($1,359,571) owed by inmates who completed payment of their obligations before incarceration, inmates who paid their obligations before transferring to the institutions in our sample, inmates who paid their obligations while incarcerated at an institution in our sample, or inmates whose financial obligations were due upon supervised release.

Approximately 90 percent of the inmates in our sample 11 owed an assessment. Sixty-six percent of the assessments were for $100 or less. The highest assessment amount in our sample was $4,000. Forty-six percent of the sampled inmates either owed an assessment and restitution or an assessment and a fine. The amount of restitution ranged from $75 to $2,170,157 but generally was below $10,000. The amount of the fines ranged from $1 to $4,000,000 but generally was below $10,000.

Based on our review of the 486 inmate files and their associated accounting records, 334 inmate files reflected compliance with IFRP guidance and required no corrective actions by institution staff. Table 4 shows the number of inmate files reviewed at each of the four institutions and the number and percent of files without IFRP problems.

Table 4. Inmate Files Without IFRP Problems

Fort Dix
Total for
Total Number of Files Reviewed 205 133 72 76 486
Total Number of Files Reviewed Without IFRP Problems 146 90 49 49 334
Percent of Files Reviewed Without IFRP Problems 71.2% 67.7% 68.1% 64.5% 68.7%
Source: Institution inmate files, inmate trust fund accounts, and SENTRY.
aIncludes the Camp and Intensive Confinement Center.
bIncludes the Camp.

For the remaining 152 inmate files, we identified problems in implementing the IFRP. Some inmate files reflected multiple problems. Table 5 on the next page summarizes the types of IFRP problems and the number of instances of these problems at the four institutions visited.

Table 5. IFRP Problems Identified

  Number of Instances of Problems Identified
in 152 Inmate Files
Type of Problem FCI Fort Dix USP Lewisburga USP Leavenworth FCI Florenceb Total for Institutions
Incorrect IFRP Assignment-Wrong Category or Better Use of EXEMPT TMP 28 15 9 10 62
Untimely Update of IFRP Category 0 1 0 2 3
Insufficient Funds in Trust Fund Account for $25 Payment 24 13 4 15 56
Payment Not Withdrawn 6 7 2 3 18
Untimely Start of IFRP Contract 1 1 3 0 5
Ability to Pay More 14 7 3 0 24
UNICOR Job Preceded IFRP Contract 4 5 7 1 17
Sanctions--Received Performance Pay Above Maintenance Pay Level 2 2 0 4 8
Total Number of Instances of IFRP Problems by Institution 80 51 28 35 193
Source: Institution inmate files and inmate trust fund accounts.
aIncludes the Camp and Intensive Confinement Center.
bIncludes the Camp.

Description of Implementation Problems

The following is a description of the types of IFRP implementation problems we identified during our review of selected inmate files.

Incorrect IFRP Assignment. Based on information in the inmate files and inmate trust fund accounts, we found a total of 62 instances where unit staff had assigned inmates to the wrong IFRP category. Table 6 shows the error conditions for the IFRP assignments and the number of instances of these conditions.

Table 6. Incorrect IFRP Assignments

Incorrect IFRP Assignment Number of
Should have been UNASSG
Exceeded 30 days in the UNASSG Category
Should have been PART
Should have been REFUSE
Should have been COMPLETE
Should have been NO OBLIG
In PART with no IFRP contract
Should have been EXEMPT TMP
Source: Institution inmate files and inmate trust fund accounts.

More than half of the instances involved inmates who should have been assigned as EXEMPT TMP based on their lack of financial resources (institution work earnings and outside resources) to make IFRP payments. Instead, the unit staff assigned the inmates as REFUSE (28 inmates), PART (9 inmates), or UNASSG (1 inmate). During our interviews, institution staff stated that the inconsistent use of EXEMPT TMP might occur for several reasons. Some staff cited the problem as "vague" guidance for assigning an inmate to EXEMPT TMP for other than medical or psychological reasons. Other staff stated that the more frequent reviews of inmates in EXEMPT TMP status for lack of financial resources were burdensome and procedures for conducting reviews of such inmates were not defined. 12 After our field visits, BOP revised the program statement for the IFRP to provide better guidance on using EXEMPT TMP for inmates whose financial condition does not allow them to fully participate in the IFRP. The program statement also synchronizes the requirement to review an EXEMPT TMP inmate's financial condition with the inmate's six-month program reviews.

Untimely Change to REFUSE Status. In three instances, unit staff were untimely in changing an inmate's IFRP assignment to REFUSE status based on the inmate's failure to maintain sufficient funds in his commissary trust fund account to make agreed-upon IFRP payments. We noted that the delay averaged between four to six months before the unit staff changed the IFRP category to REFUSE for these inmates. Inmates in REFUSE status are subject to restriction or denial of certain benefits.

Insufficient Funds in Trust Fund Account for $25 Payment. In 56 instances, inmates did not maintain sufficient funds in their commissary trust fund accounts to make their agreed-upon IFRP payments. This condition occurred most often for the first and second payments. According to BOP Program Statement 5380.07, unit staff should verify that inmates made their IFRP payments and counsel those inmates who did not comply with their financial plans. With the exception of the USP Lewisburg Camp, the inmate files did not reflect that such counseling had occurred. Because most unit staff can now access inmate trust fund account statements from unit computer terminals, verifying IFRP payments could be done quickly and without impacting overall unit staff workload.

Payment Not Withdrawn. In 18 instances, IFRP payments were not withdrawn in accordance with the most recent financial plan in an inmate's file. Staff at each institution stated that these instances may occur because of the untimely submission or untimely processing of an inmate's financial plan by the unit staff or Office of Financial Management (OFM).

Untimely Start of IFRP Contract. The BOP Program Statement 2011.06, IFRP, Processing Payments, September 17, 1997, states that quarterly payments are withdrawn during the last month of each quarter (March, June, September, and December) and timed for the deposit of institution pay. After an inmate signs an IFRP contract, a start date (month/year) for the first payment is determined by the unit staff, discussed with the inmate, and annotated on the contract. We found five instances where the established start dates for the first payments were untimely when compared to the inmates' signature dates on the contracts, normal withdrawal cycles, and financial resources evident in the inmates' trust fund accounts. In general, the delays in IFRP contract start dates were three to five months. The reasons for the delayed start dates were not reflected in the inmates' files.

Ability to Pay More. According to BOP Program Statement 5380.07, during regularly scheduled meetings with an inmate, the unit staff should review the inmate's progress in making IFRP payments and determine whether the inmate could increase the amount of the payments. We found 24 instances where the inmates' commissary trust fund accounts showed that deposits and institution pay were sizable enough to increase the level of IFRP participation. However, based on the inmates' program review reports written by unit staff, we did not see documentation to indicate that the unit staff had discussed an increased payment with these inmates.

IFRP Payments from Inmates Employed in UNICOR. Before being employed in a UNICOR position, an inmate with a financial obligation must agree to participate in the IFRP and sign an IFRP contract. An inmate who had an IFRP contract while employed in a performance pay position must still sign a new IFRP contract for UNICOR, which requires inmates to pay not less than 50 percent of their monthly earnings toward their financial obligations. However, in 17 instances, inmates did not have appropriate IFRP contracts on file before employment in UNICOR positions and monthly IFRP payments were not being withdrawn.

For inmates employed in UNICOR at grades 1 through 4, the required IFRP payment is 50 percent of their monthly earnings, provided the IFRP payment is at least $25. The BOP automated financial management system automatically deducts IFRP payments after the UNICOR inmate payroll is processed. The BOP Program Statement 5380.07 states that IFRP payments may exceed the 50 percent minimum of earnings after considering the inmate's specific obligations and resources. However, the automated financial management system is programmed to only calculate the IFRP payments at 50 percent of an inmate's earnings, regardless of the inmate's ability to pay more. Based on our review of files for 115 inmates employed in UNICOR, we found 12 inmates whose earnings and outside resources could support IFRP payments greater than the 50 percent minimum.

We also determined that BOP did not deduct IFRP payments from an inmate's UNICOR earnings when those earnings were below $50. From our sample of inmate files, we found 20 instances where inmates employed in UNICOR had monthly earnings below $50. However, in these 20 instances, the inmates had sufficient money in their commissary trust fund accounts to make the minimum $25 IFRP payment.

During our interviews with representatives from the BOP Administration Division (Trust Fund Operations) and the Federal Prison Industries, we asked whether the automated financial management system could be modified to deduct more than 50 percent of an inmate's UNICOR earnings and whether IFRP payments could be deducted from an inmate's trust fund account when the inmate does not earn at least $50. At that time, the Administration Division official stated that BOP was discussing system modifications with a private contractor hired to centralize the institutions' OFM disbursement process. The BOP, along with the contractor, would consider the feasibility of modifying the automated financial management system to accommodate these special IFRP conditions. After our field visits, BOP revised its program statement to include procedures for collecting IFRP payments from inmates in UNICOR who can afford to pay more and from inmates whose earnings are below $50.


For an inmate who refuses to participate in the IFRP or who does not comply with the provisions of his financial plan, the BOP institution should withhold certain benefits. We reviewed whether the institutions we visited enforced the IFRP sanctions and found only a few instances where a required sanction was not taken. These instances involved eight inmates in REFUSE status whose performance pay was not reduced to the maintenance pay level ($5.25 per month) by the institutions' Performance Pay Coordinators.

We also identified that BOP could lower the commissary spending limit for inmates who do not pay their court-ordered financial obligations. The BOP institutions operate self-sustaining commissaries that provide goods and services for inmates to purchase. At the time of our review, the commissaries had monthly spending limits that were the same for all inmates whether they participated in the IFRP or not, although inmates who refused to participate in the IFRP were not allowed to purchase special items such as sports equipment and hobby crafts. However, inmates in REFUSE status may not be significantly inconvenienced by the restriction on special purchase items. Based on our review of inmate records, 42 inmates in REFUSE status had the monetary resources to make at least the minimum IFRP payments. Yet, these inmates spent their money in the commissary instead of toward their debts. The BOP has since changed the commissary sanction to include a more stringent spending limit for inmates in REFUSE status. 13


Approximately 69 percent of the 486 inmate files we reviewed reflected compliance with IFRP guidance. In approximately 31 percent of the inmate files, we found 193 instances of eight types of problems requiring the attention of unit staff. Four of the eight problem types involved non-collection of payments or non-collection of higher payments when possible. We did not quantify the total amount of these forgone payments; however, over time and at more institutions, the amount could be substantial.


  1. The Director, BOP, should ensure that institution staff involved in administering and implementing the IFRP understand their responsibilities and adhere to the program guidance.

Documenting Inmate Progress

Unit staff must conduct inmate program reviews every six months. During these reviews, unit staff must assess the level of each inmate's progress in BOP programs, to include the IFRP (if applicable). The results of these reviews are documented in the inmate's file through the Program Review Report (BPS-571) and the Inmate Activity Record. The unit staff also enter program goal target dates into SENTRY. Despite these various media for capturing information, the IFRP information for our sample of inmates was often insufficient to readily discern the inmates' progress in meeting financial obligations and the staff's efforts to obtain or improve participation. For example, the program review reports typically reflected only the total amount of the obligations owed by the inmate and the remaining balance. There was no descriptive information about the inmate's progress such as consistency of payments or willingness to increase payment amounts. We also found that unit staff rarely document their discussions with inmates conducted at times other than the formal program reviews. The exception to this was the USP Lewisburg Camp where unit staff kept more in-depth records of their interaction with inmates during and between program reviews. The BOP's new IFRP program statement requires more detailed information in inmate program review reports including the inmates' IFRP progress and the specific reasons inmates do not make payments commensurate with their ability to pay. However, the new policy does not address documenting interim discussions between unit staff and inmates regarding IFRP participation and progress. Consequently, without adequate written records of interim discussions, unit staff are missing useful information for determining an inmate's overall commitment to paying his debts and deciding appropriate corrective actions, if required. Such interim discussions could be annotated on the Inmate Activity Record.


With the exception of the USP Lewisburg Camp, we found insufficient information in the program review reports prepared by unit staff to readily determine inmates' progress in meeting their financial obligations. The new IFRP policy may correct this problem because the policy requires program reviews to reflect the status of an inmate's participation in the IFRP and specific reasons for an inmate's failure to progress in the program. However, the new IFRP policy does not address the need for unit staff to document their interim discussions with inmates about the IFRP. Therefore, unit staff are missing useful information for determining an inmate's overall commitment to paying his debts and deciding appropriate corrective actions, if required.


  1. The Director, BOP, should ensure that unit staff, at times other than the six-month program reviews, document discussions with inmates about changes in their participation and progress in the IFRP.

IFRP Quality Review Procedures

The BOP implemented monthly quality review procedures in response to our 1994 IFRP inspection report. Each institution we visited conducts a monthly quality review of IFRP information in SENTRY. The institution's IFRP Coordinator generates IFRP rosters from SENTRY that identify inmates by their specific IFRP assignment and associated error condition, such as when expected payments do not reflect actual payments made. The unit staff should take action to correct the errors or counsel inmates. At one institution, we determined whether the monthly quality review process helped the unit staff to detect IFRP problems and whether the staff had corrected these problems. We randomly selected nine inmate records from four different rosters (each roster represents a specific problem condition) and determined that the IFRP problems had been appropriately identified and then corrected by unit staff. Therefore, through the institution's monthly quality review process, unit staff may have an opportunity to identify IFRP problems-like the ones we identified during our on-site reviews-and take corrective actions. The quality review procedures were originally described in Operations Memorandum 098-93, "Inmate Financial Responsibility Quality Review," May 17, 1993. The cancellation date of the memorandum was May 31, 1994, by which time the procedures should have been incorporated into a policy document without a sunset date. However, the monthly procedures have not been included in any policy document.

The BOP officials stated that the monthly quality reviews are an informal, yet established, practice at the institutions. At their own discretion, the institutions may perform more frequent reviews of their programs than BOP requires and use review techniques, such as local IFRP rosters generated from SENTRY, to troubleshoot program implementation. Program Statement 1210.20, Management Control and Program Review Manual, November 24, 1999, establishes requirements for program reviews of institutions that are usually conducted every two years by BOP's Program Review Division and operational reviews that are usually conducted annually by each institution. 14 Both the program reviews and operational reviews examine BOP programs (not just the IFRP) to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the programs and to recommend corrective actions. As an additional aid to improving the IFRP, the Correctional Programs Division recently started providing the regional IFRP coordinators with quarterly discrepancy reports from SENTRY. The BOP considers the types and frequency of its formal reviews and the quarterly discrepancy reports to be adequate management tools for ensuring effective implementation of the IFRP. Therefore, the BOP does not see the need to include the procedures for the institutions' monthly quality reviews in a policy document.

We found that the monthly quality reviews are an important mechanism for institutions to monitor IFRP activities and identify and correct problems in a timely manner. If institutions rely solely on the annual and biennial reviews, some IFRP problems may go undetected for months and become more serious or widespread. By initiating the quarterly discrepancy reports, the Correctional Programs Division recognizes the need for more frequent monitoring of IFRP activities. Therefore, we believe the monthly quality reviews, to include use of the quarterly discrepancy reports, represent a best business practice for IFRP implementation. However, without BOP policy that prescribes the monthly reviews of IFRP data, we are concerned that institution staff, especially newly appointed IFRP coordinators, may not understand the benefits of, and procedures for, conducting such reviews.


Though institutions use a monthly quality review process to detect errors in IFRP data contained in SENTRY, this process is not described in official BOP guidance. The BOP officials stated that operational and program reviews of BOP programs are sufficient for detecting and correcting problems; therefore, guidance for more frequent reviews, which can be done at the institution's discretion, is not necessary. The BOP's Correctional Program's Division now sends quarterly discrepancy reports to the regional IFRP coordinators to assist in monitoring the IFRP at more frequent intervals than the operational and program reviews. However, without formal guidance for conducting the monthly quality reviews (to include using the quarterly discrepancy reports), institution staff may forgo this important program management tool.


  1. The Director, BOP, should ensure that institution staff, especially IFRP coordinators, understand the benefits of, and procedures for, conducting monthly quality reviews of the IFRP.

Community Corrections Centers Should Assist in
Collecting IFRP Payments

The BOP contracts with state and local governments and private organizations to provide a variety of services to federal offenders in the community. These services are generally provided through facilities commonly known as community corrections centers (CCCs). 15 The services of CCCs include programs to assist offenders in becoming law-abiding, self-sufficient, contributing members of the community. Community Corrections Managers, who are BOP employees, are responsible for all functions, programs, and services related to community corrections (which includes the CCCs) in their assigned district. Over 250 CCCs operate nationwide, providing services to approximately 6,500 federal offenders who are:

To promote personal financial responsibility, the BOP requires CCC residents to contribute to the cost of their residency through subsistence payments to the CCC contractors. Contractors collect 25 percent of a resident's weekly gross income during the resident's stay. 16 The contractors must reduce the monthly billing to the BOP by the amount collected in subsistence. Overall, the CCCs collect approximately $18,000,000 to $20,000,000 annually.

The BOP does not have policies and procedures that require CCC residents to continue payments toward their court-ordered financial obligations and the CCC contracts do not require CCCs to address financial obligations. According to BOP officials and CCC staff, the limited time an offender spends in a CCC precludes a practical CCC-run IFRP payment process. Inmates in BOP institutions usually make payments on a monthly or quarterly basis and this payment history is reflected in SENTRY. These payment timeframes are considered too protracted for the CCCs. The CCCs also do not have access to SENTRY as a means of verifying the IFRP status of residents and monitoring payments. Information from SENTRY would have to be obtained by the CCCs through their community corrections managers, who currently have access to SENTRY but not to the IFRP module. Consequently, CCCs and their community corrections managers have not been a formal part of the IFRP and CCC residents do not have to pay their financial obligations.

We visited two community corrections management offices and two CCCs in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Kansas City, Missouri, that had IFRP initiatives. The Philadelphia CCC had implemented a policy of encouraging residents to pay their financial obligations through the courts. However, the Philadelphia CCC did not have procedures for verifying and documenting residents' payments to the courts.

At the time of our review, the Kansas City CCC had been instructed by their district Community Corrections Manager to follow new local procedures for tracking payments toward financial obligations owed by offenders directly committed to the CCC by the court or transferred from federal institutions. These procedures require the CCC to review the court-ordered financial obligations of the offenders within the first two weeks of arrival at the CCC and develop a financial plan with each offender for payment of the obligations. Staff at the Kansas City CCC stated that collecting and tracking payments for court-ordered financial obligations was not included in the CCC contract, but that monitoring the payments made to the courts would not substantially increase the CCC's workload. However, the CCC staff also stated that if a larger number of federal offenders with court-ordered financial obligations were assigned to the CCC, a contract modification might be necessary in the future. According to BOP officials, the contract for CCCs should be reviewed and possibly modified to include the IFRP responsibilities. The BOP would then oversee the CCC contract to ensure the IFRP was implemented.


Satisfactory participation in the IFRP is an important factor when BOP staff determine an inmate's CCC placement. However, that participation may cease once the inmate enters a CCC because BOP has not developed policies and procedures that require CCC residents to make payments toward their financial obligations. Federal offenders ordinarily reside in CCCs for only a short time and CCCs do not have access to SENTRY; therefore, BOP officials have not required the CCCs to implement the IFRP. However, CCC residents could make payments directly to the courts or United States Attorneys' offices, as appropriate, and provide proof of payment to the CCCs. The CCCs would not be responsible for collecting financial obligations from CCC residents, but the CCCs would be responsible for advising residents about paying their obligations, monitoring payment activities, and documenting payment information in the residents' files. The Kansas City CCC has implemented new procedures to develop financial plans with offenders directly committed to the CCC or transferred from federal institutions and to monitor payments by these offenders to the courts. If proven feasible, similar procedures could be implemented in all CCCs.


  1. The Director, BOP, should develop and implement policy and procedures for CCCs to counsel CCC residents about making their IFRP payments directly to the courts or United States Attorneys' offices, as appropriate; to monitor residents' payments toward their financial obligations; and to document payment information in the residents' files.

  1. Includes inmates in all IFRP categories.

  2. The previous IFRP Program Statement 5380.05, December 22, 1995, required unit staff to review every three months the financial condition of inmates exempted for financial reasons. Inmates exempted for medical or psychological reasons were reviewed every six months.

  3. The restricted spending limit excludes purchases of stamps, telephone credits, and Kosher/Halal foods.

  4. A program review is an examination of BOP programs by organizationally independent, trained BOP reviewers who are specialists in the program area being reviewed. An operational review is a self-evaluation process conducted by an institution's own staff.

  5. Excerpted from the BOP Statement of Work, Community Corrections Center, December 1992, with amendments. The CCC is also referred to as facility, center, community treatment center, or halfway house.

  6. Residents are required to seek and obtain employment within 15 days of arrival at a CCC and they must show proof of employment.
Return to the USDOJ/OIG Home Page
Return to the Table of Contents