By Julie McCaffrey
WASHINGTON, DC – A letter authored by ACLU’s National Prison Project advised Richard K. Delmar of the U.S. Treasury Department last week to investigate the misuse of millions of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) dollars wrongfully used for the expansion and construction of new prisons, despite being intended for community COVID-19 relief.
ACLU affiliates in the affected states of Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Iowa, Indiana, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, and Oklahoma, and ACLU National Prison Project signed the letter, describing the misuse of funds as illegal and citing the official rules requiring local and state governments to use the funds for COVID-19 relief.
The rules, said the ACLU, stated no funds should be used for the construction or expansion of jails, prisons, and other disciplinary facilities. Instead, added the ACLU, the funds should be used to divert people from prison and support practices that reduce community violence.
The letter condemned the use of ARPA funds for the construction and expansion of jails and prisons.
The ACLU asked the U.S. Treasury Department to open an investigation and “immediately communicate to all states and localities receiving ARPA funds, reiterating that they may not use those funds to build or expand jails, prisons, or other detention facilities and that there will be consequences for doing so.”
ARPA began the Coronavirus State Fiscal Recovery Fund in 2021 with the mission to help local businesses and communities begin to recover from the damage of COVID-19.
“These same funds, that are desperately needed by the communities impacted most negatively by the pandemic, are being used illegally to build and expand prisons and jails,” said Tammie Gregg, deputy director of the ACLU National Prison Project.
Gregg added, “Our goal [of the letter] is not to just articulate these issues, but to provide meaningful and tangible ways to solve them.”