Can Prison Inmates Get Stimulus Checks?

By Prison Insight Staff

Updated: January 20, 2021

When President Trump signed the CARES Act last spring, part of the legislation featured $1,200 stimulus payments to citizens who make less than $75,000 per year. As we all know, a second round of checks for $600 was included in the most recent stimulus bill. And, it looks like President Biden will be signing more legislation in the near future for a third round of stimulus payments, if Congress passes anything resembling his $1.9 trillion plan.

This money is being given out to people who need financial help during the pandemic. But, does that include people who are incarcerated? Can prison inmates get stimulus checks?

In today’s blog post, I will cover the following topics:

  • The IRS was ordered to give prison inmates a chance to claim a stimulus payment
  • Getting a stimulus payment for a prison inmate has been difficult
  • Can people who are still incarcerated get a stimulus check?
  • Will inmates get a second stimulus check?
  • Who is eligible for the Recovery Rebate Credit?
  • How to calculate the Recovery Rebate Credit for your inmate

The IRS was ordered to give prison inmates a chance to claim a stimulus payment

When the first stimulus payment was sent out last spring, the courts ordered the IRS to give people in prison and jail the chance to claim the $1,200 payment after a lawsuit was filed against them. 

However, that process took a few months, and in the meantime there was a lot of confusion about whether or not inmates qualified for the payments. The deadlines to make a claim came and went. The deadline to file the physical paperwork for a stimulus check claim was November 4, 2020. The deadline to file an online claim was November 21, 2020. 

Since prison and jail inmates don’t have access to the internet – and because many prison officials didn’t give their inmates the chance to file the physical paperwork – many prison inmates missed out on these payments.

Getting a stimulus payment for a prison inmate has been difficult

Those November deadlines emerged in late October, which made it difficult for most prison inmates to get their stimulus check. As CNET notes, the deadlines also emerged after the IRS gave out confusing and often contradictory guidance. At first, the IRS sent money to some people in jail and prison and then asked for it back!

It wasn’t until a federal judge in California responded to a class-action lawsuit that the IRS started sending out forms to prisons across the country so the 2.3 million people who are incarcerated could attempt to get their check.

The IRS appealed the judge’s decision and requested an injunction to the ruling. But, according to the IRS website, they “cannot deny a payment to someone who is incarcerated if they meet the criteria.”

Despite this fact, there have been reports of facilities actively blocking the forms and newsletters about the payments from getting to inmates. There have also been reports of people fraudulently getting payments in the name of people who are incarcerated.

Can people who are still incarcerated get a stimulus check?

This is a difficult question to answer. Since those November deadlines have come and gone, there is no longer a place on the IRS website for non-filers to enter their payment info. For prison inmates who did file a 2019 tax return, the deadlines have still passed. But there is hope. Inmates can obtain their money, but it will take some time.

Will inmates get a second stimulus check?

When it comes to the $600 payment and the $1,200 payment that have already been sent out, there is a way for you to help your incarcerated loved one get those stimulus checks. 

What you will have to do is file a 2020 Tax Return for your inmate. You can report zero earnings (if they didn’t earn any money last year) and file for the “recovery rebate” tax credit. The way the law is written, both the first $1,200 payment and the second $600 payment were simply advance payments of this credit.

If the combined total of those two stimulus amounts is less than the recovery rebate credit amount, they may be able to get the difference back in the form of a tax refund.

Who is eligible for the Recovery Rebate Credit?

According to, the eligibility rules for the recovery rebate credit are essentially the same as the rules for receiving the first and second stimulus checks. 

The big difference is that eligibility for the stimulus checks was based on the information from the 2018 and 2019 tax returns. The eligibility for the recovery rebate credit is based on information from the 2020 tax return.

Generally, you’re eligible to claim the recovery rebate credit if, in 2020, you:

  • Were a U.S. citizen or U.S. resident alien;
  • Can’t be claimed as a dependent on another person’s tax return; and
  • Have a Social Security number valid for employment that’s issued before the due date of your 2020 tax return (including extensions)

How to calculate the Recovery Rebate Credit for your inmate

Calculating the recovery rebate credit is the same as the calculation of stimulus checks. It starts with a base amount, and for most people that is $1,800. That number comes from combining the two checks $1,200 plus $600. 

If the inmate is the head of a household, pays child support, or is married filing jointly – basically, if the inmate is not single with no dependents – then these numbers will change. Please refer to the IRS website for more information in this situation, or try out this MSN article that will go into more detail about inmates with spouses and dependents. 

After adding up the base amount, then it’s time to determine if the recovery rebate credit is reduced because of income. Obviously, an inmate who was incarcerated throughout 2020 is not going to have any income. This means that the credit will not be reduced.

You will report the $1,800 rebate amount on Line 30 of your inmate’s 2020 federal income tax return. Because this is a “refundable” credit, they will get this amount since they have no other taxes to pay. 

Remember, your inmate will be getting a paper check unless they have a bank account and you have that info for direct deposit. Do not have the check sent to the inmate at the prison because most facilities do not accept direct payments to inmates. 

Instead, you will have to deposit the check into the inmate’s account through whatever method the facility uses. Most prisons use JPay for inmate accounts. 

If your inmate hasn’t received their stimulus checks, there is still hope. However, you will have to help them out. Your inmate can get their money through a tax refund, but you will have to fill out these forms for your inmate. You can also send the 2020 tax filing forms to your inmate with instructions on how to fill it out.

We are not tax professionals or attorneys. While all of this is sound advice, we do advise that you consult with a tax professional if you have any questions about your inmate filing for this credit. 

Has your incarcerated loved one received their stimulus checks? Let us know in the comments below.


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  • My husband and I have been trying for the last several months to help our inmate friend apply for these stimulus checks. But the application will not take the information we have on our inmate. Is there anyone we can talk to about this. We are not sure if it is saying her social security number is not right or if it is some other issue. Our inmate, on the other hand, has supplied us with all her necessary information. My husband is an accountant and is tearing his hair out. Social Security offices are closed due to covid restrictions so we cannot go to talk to a human being at the Social Security office even though our inmate has requested us to help her and signed papers giving us that authority from her. We have set up a separate bank account for her to receive the stimulus check so we can send it to her in amounts not excessive for her to receive funds at her prison account. When my husband has talked to the Social Security office, each person he talks to gives different directions on how to go about this. One suggested we help our inmate apply for a different Social Security number in case that is the issue that someone since she has been in prison changed her Social security number and did not tell her. She is a lifer and has been inside for 20 years so far. Yet I see from your above information on this page, that they have to have had their same social security number up until the application in order to qualify to receive the stimulus check. The last Social Security person my husband talked to last week said the prison has their own social worker to help the prisoner apply for the stimulus checks and we only need to contact that social worker. The run around is unending over the last 20 years of being our friend’s only support person for so many issues. I am trying today to see a list of staff at the prison to see if I can email the proverbial social worker the Social Security office seems to think every prison has. Our inmate says she knows that some other inmates have received stimulus checks at her facility.

    • Hi Sheila. I know dealing with this is frustrating! Trying to find a case worker in a prison that deals with this is not going to be easy. Because your inmate is a lifer who has been locked up for 20 years, chances are the IRS doesn’t recognize her social security number. If she hasn’t filed any taxes during that time (which I’m sure she hasn’t), doing things online is going to be impossible. My advice is to get the 1040 EZ paper forms for a 2020 Tax Filing and file for your inmate to get the tax credit. Fill it out with the information you have from your inmate and include the bank info for direct deposit. She doesn’t need to have any income in 2020 to file a tax return and receive the credit. Once you file, if there is a problem for whatever reason, an IRS agent should be able to advise you of the problem.

      • My brother is in prison and he sent his stimulus check to me to deposit. I am the only one that helps him! Can I deposit it in my account

        • Hi Latoya!
          Yes, you can deposit his check into your bank account as long as you have his permission.
          However, he will need to sign the check over to you on the back in the signature section. He should sign his name then write “pay to the order of” underneath. Then, you sign your name under that.
          If his prison doesn’t allow you to bring legal documents to a visit so he can sign, then you will need to talk to him about signing his name for him. Get his permission to be his proxy and sign the check over to yourself.
          Hope this helps.

      • Hi Natalie, My brother kept asking me to file for him, saying that other inmates were getting checks and had not filed themselves. After finally reaching the IRS they told me I could not file for my brother without his power of attorney. Those other inmates likely had wives or some form of joint income and taxes, so someone else could file for them. So my brother filed himself for the recovery rebate credit. Now I am trying to get his power of attorney (an IRS form I mailed him he must sign and mail, I cannot do for him) to see if I can then call IRS and get his check rerouted -mailed to me. We think the prison will garnish his check for fees or restitution, and the 3rd payment too, bc as a “refund” it is not protected. If they can take some of it I have a feeling they will think why not just take it all…is anyone else worried about checks going to inmate not being turned over to the inmate, but garnished?

    • I am also trying to help a loved one with this and am at a loss as he has been incarcerated for more than 20 years and is a lifer. If filling out the form manually- how do I go about getting his signature/ file for him?
      Any help is appreciated!

      • Hi KB. The best thing to do is to fill out your inmate’s 1040 on paper and then mail it to your inmate for him to sign it. Then, he can mail it back to you so you can file the return. Remember, use your address so the check can be mailed directly to you, that way you can deposit the check into his inmate account via JPAY or whatever service his prison uses for inmate funds. Hope this helps!

  • My brother is in prison and he sent his stimulus check to me to deposit. I am the only one that helps him! Can I deposit it in my account

  • Natalie, My brother and his wife are both in FBOP facilities. They both filed in the time frame for the stimulus check in October 2020 using paper forms and through the mail. They have not received any of the funds, the first or second payments. I have a copy of the 1040 my sister-in-law sent. She says she was instructed to use the FBOP Lockbox (DesMoines IA) address as her address on the 1040. The “Refund” section was left blank. I just question if the IRS would be able to Direct Deposit the check(s) with the form completed in this manner. She is concerned if a check is sent to the prison that she would not be able to endorse it and deposit in the lockbox account. Thank you!

    • This is a tough one. If they still haven’t received any of their stimulus checks at this point (March 2021), then they should both file a 2020 tax return and get their payments via a tax refund. It makes sense that they use the lockbox address because that’s how federal inmates can receive checks for their inmate accounts via mail. I would go ahead and use that address while filling out their 2020 tax returns. Hope this helps.

    • You need to file a 1040 form with the IRS, be it electronically or via paper through the postal service. In doing so you can claim the Rebate Recovery Credit for him. Once you do this, and the IRS processes it then the third stimulus payment should automatically generate.

  • could a inmate get his or her stimulus check be mailed to a bank account?


  • Ive been trying to get stimulus for my daughter which is now in prison,I was able to enter all her info,except it wouldnt let me enter her prison Id num,my understanding is when u file for her,her prison Id has to be on there,so now we not sure if she going to get her stimulus or not,once it say she was approved but that was end of last year sometime n she still hasnt received any stimulus,we dont know if it was sent back to Irs or how to staighten her stimulus out

    • If your daughter never got the two stimulus payments, then you can file her taxes through Turbo Taxes where you will claim the Recovery Rebate Credit. If your bank won’t let you direct deposit it into your account then you need to have it mailed to her (therefore you must provide the prison’s address). Naturally this won’t be doable if you can’t insert the inmate number. Therefore, have her issue a POWER OF ATTORNEY document to you, have the check mailed to you, and then you can handle the money for her. As a matter of fact on the IRS website they have Power of Attorney forms of their own, but your bank will need one from her as that won’t be the same as those forms used by the IRS.

  • If non-filers tool for inmates is closed since Nov.2020,how can u get stimulus for your inmate original way,if it wont let u enter their Id num

  • I do know, u cant dep stimulus for inmate into your bank acct without them present with their ID,its cosidered like a3rd partycheck,and they tell me no

  • when u go to website to apply for your inmate stimulus,u have to have it sent to prison commisary dept,there prison ID has to be on any form

    • This is great. So do you put in $0.00 under income if inmate has been incarcerated for two years? Also, I have power of attorney, do I sign inmates name or my name and where exactly? Thanks!!!!

  • Sorry, to add to my question above. If I have inmates power of attorney can I deposit the check in my account and then disperse the funds a little at a time?

  • My son received the last stimulus check and the present one is due to be mailed. He is now incarcerated in a different prison. Where will this check be sent? Will it be returned to the IRS???

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  • My son is incarcerated in Omaha ne and the omaha correctional Center often referred by work release. He has sent two forms in because he is a non filer. He has not recieved one stimulus check. I understand possibly the first and second may have been used for back child support but it was my understanding the third would not be used for anything. Can you tell me what can we do to help him out. The forms were sent in feb I believe. Inmates are getting there stimulus checks. He is single and claims nobody and has not filed taxes for at least 3 years. Can you tell me what needs to be done? This has been very frustrating to him because being incarcerated his hands are tied and theres only so much he can do. I ha e checked several times on get my payment for him and nothing shows. I need some advice, can you guide me on what I can do to help him? He is unable to file for the rebate credit since he cannot get anybody to help him and they have no access to computers. Please help me. I believe he should have gotten at least the 2nd and third one.
    Thank you,
    Deb Wesch

  • My daughter’s boyfriend has been incarcerated since Sept 2018 and he had the first two stimulus checks direct deposited into her account. The third one has not came yet, anyone know what changed this time? She has two kids with him and definitely helps with their care and the super expensive phone calls. Thank God he is due out this year. Thanks in advance if anyone can answer this question or had the same thing happen.


  • my brother is incarcerated in prison and he sent me his stimulus check to deposit in an account but i tried to set up an account but they denied it

    • Since his name is on the check, find out what company your brother’s prison uses to process trust account payments. Most will take checks made out to the inmate, you just have to find out which company. JPAY and Access Corrections both have methods for depositing paper checks into an inmate’s trust account. Check out the listing on Prison Insight for your brother’s prison. Or, call the facility directly.

  • Have there been any directives related to the 2021 Stimulus Checks and how we can help inmates receive the payments?

  • My son got the first two stimulus payments,where is the third one? It’s really helped me out supporting him,thanks

  • My incarcerated son filed the 1040 form for the 2020 year no worked in 10 years. This was filed March 20th and still no Stimulus check in his trust fund account. Please reply to this. TY

  • My brother is in fbop and filed the 1040 March 26, 2021. The where’s my refund continues to say return is being processed however it has been more than 21 days and he has not received anything on his account. Is there anything else he can do to find out if he will be receiving the funds? Also he had to put the address of Des Moine Iowa since fbop requires his money to go there but since it is just a receiving center for funds how would he know if the irs had questions for him for clarification?

  • It’s been months that I keep checking status and it just states being processed . My brother received $1200,never received #2 or 3. But from what I keep reading a lot of inmates are having a hard time getting stimulus IRS is really making it hard

  • my incarcerated husband requested his third stimulus be direct deposited into my bank account. I then western union him his money. He’s in a federal prison they don’t use jpay. Therefore I couldn’t send a personal check. Now my bank flagged my account for fraud and took all MY money! Because his name’s not on my account. I showed them all our emails where he said he mailed the forms to IRS with OUR address and my bank info for his stimulus and where he asked me to file his tax papers and he’s asking about his kids and we can’t wait for him to come home in a few months and where he said for me to wire him half and keep half for the kids and where he said he got the wire for $700. And my bank records reflect this. Clearly this is NOT fraud. Shouldn’t they give me my money back!????!!!

  • My son’s direct deposit of his stimulus was returned to the irs because the bank had closed his account. I was told it was sent back to the irs . He is incercerated so now what happens? Will it be sent to the prison or to the address on the 1040 I filed for him?

  • If an inmate charges facilities and in another state how do they find out where their stimulus money went

    • If you have his social security number and date of birth along with the address of the facility he is currently in then go to the website “getmypayment”.cm and put in that information and it will tell you where the sent it.

  • No he did not get the 1800. He received the 1st one at that is all. Do I have to wait and file tax return for him at the end of the year?

  • My son, an inmate, was sent 3 stimulus checks to the facility where he is. He was able to deposit 2 checks into his Trust Fund, but the 3rd one they told him did not clear for deposit. But they didn’t give him a reason why not. Could they be taking it from him or who can I talk to about it because they say they cannot tell me anything either and I don’t think that’s fair. Can someone help?

  • My son has been incarcerated since April 2019. Somehow he was able to fill out the forms for the stimulus checks, only after the Nov 20, 2020 date though. He would have sent them in some time this spring. It is now mid-October and he has had nothing come to him either in prison or to his home address, which is my address also. WHERE DO I GO TO CHECK INTO THE WHEREABOUTS OF ANY OF HIS 3 STIMULUS CHECKS?

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