‘Let Me Pay My Taxes’ Says Incarcerated Industry Worker

From inside a Minnesota prison cell, an incarcerated worker in the state’s Prison Industries Enhancement Certification Program (PIECP) is demanding the Department of Corrections (DOC) allow him to pay his taxes. Kashaun Pierce Sr. said for the last seven years he’s been trying to pay his taxes but the DOC has been listing him as an independent contractor.

After a federal crackdown on two people who filed fraudulent tax returns from Minnesota Correctional Facility (MCF)-Faribault prison in 2009 and 2010, the DOC stopped allowing deductions on paychecks.

Pierce Sr. has worked in Rush City and Faribault prisons since the tax change and has a release date coming up in 2026. With this policy, that Pierce Sr. and other incarcerated workers didn’t choose, they end up owing the IRS back taxes when they get released. Furthermore, he said it will make it harder for him to “get a bank loan for the business I want to open up, it will affect my credit score for the property I want to buy, [and] it will affect my social security fund in the future.”

Pierce Sr. said he believes the DOC “must reverse their decision, correct the error they caused, repay the back taxes that many of the incarcerated and formerly incarcerated owe, and follow the law that Congress enacted.” He called on the Congress and the IRS to investigate and Minnesota’s Governor Walz to “establish an oversight committee for the MN DOC.”

Other News From MCF-Faribault

This is the fourth in our periodic ‘Letters from Prisoners’ series and the second from this particular person imprisoned in a Minnesota Correctional Facility — read Pierce Sr.’s first here: Minnesota Inmate Calls on DOC to ‘Value Us as Human’ [June 2023]. See our most recent entry: ‘Prisoners Face Retaliation for Protest at MCF-Stillwater’ [September 2023] and read our first: “Philadelphia Three” Political Prisoner Khalif Miller Languishes Pre-Trial in Federal Prison [August 2022].

The following text is was sent to Unicorn Riot via a family member of Kashaun Pierce Sr., currently incarcerated in MCF-Faribault. The text is a commentary reflecting lived experience and/or perspectives of the author. The views and opinions expressed don’t necessarily represent those of Unicorn Riot. 

‘Let Me Pay My Taxes’

“Let me pay my taxes! — That’s what I’ve been saying for the past seven years inside of Rush City and Faribault Prison. Ever since the Minnesota Department of Corrections came up with this new policy, I have become very apprehensive about my future once I am released in 2026.

The reason I am very concerned is because a memorandum that was issued on April 5, 2016 by then Deputy Commissioner Terry Carlson. The Deputy Commissioner and many other MN DOC staffers implemented a new compensation procedure that took effect on January 1, 2016 for the incarcerated who work for the Prison Industries Enhancement Certification Program (PIECP). In the memorandum, the MN DOC decided that it would eliminate the deductions of federal and state taxes from my/our pay check and force me/us to work as an independent subcontractor.

When I learned of these unlawful acts of the MN DOC, I decided to educate myself on industrial prison jobs. When the PIECP began in 1979, there were laws that were put in place by Congress and the Bureau of Justice Assistance (the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration, or LEAA) that the prison had to follow (including Minnesota) in order for the PIECP to move forward. Two of these laws were created to make sure that for individuals like me, involvement was voluntary and deductions from my wages were limited to four purpose[s] only in following the order of priority: 1) Federal and State taxes, 2) Family support, 3) Victims’ compensation/restitution, 4) Room and Board. Moreover, these deductions could not exceed 80% of gross wages.

However, in 2016 the MN DOC introduced a new policy indicating that it will no longer be deducting federal and state taxes from it’s PIECP workers even though it is stated under title 18 U.S.C.S section 1761 (c), (2), (A), in the Minn. Stat. section 243.23 Subd. (1), (2), and (3) that they must deduct federal and state taxes. I even took the opportunity to look at MN DOC policy and it clearly states in policy 300.100 1 (d), (c) and 2 (a) that they are to abide by these laws — which they have completely ignored. I personally believe that since the MN DOC has been getting away with this, they believe that they’re above the law.

Prior to this scam that I believe the MN DOC is orchestrating, I was given a W-2 form, I paid federal and state taxes, I filed taxes, and I received a tax return just as free workers do. But after the MN DOC stopped deducting my taxes, I started receiving a 1099-MISC form for the previous year, which does not show that any taxes were withdrawn for that fiscal year.

To me as a former PIECP [participant] and as a man who has had a job before, being told that the MN DOC will be eliminating all tax deductions and forcing me to work as an “independent subcontractor” sounded very distrustful — especially when it came to the independent subcontractor part because I/we don’t control my work schedule, my hours, or my pay rate as independent subcontractors do.

The seriousness of my concern has led me to ask them, “Why the changes?” I was told because individuals were providing fakes names and social security numbers. But if that’s the problem, then those individuals shouldn’t be allowed to work in the PIECP. Why make me suffer for someone else’s actions when I’ve provided a valid name and SSN? Just think if a big corporation like Walmart was refusing to deduct taxes out of their employees wages because a few individuals gave fake names and SSN’s. There would be an uproar.

The MN DOC is a big corporation just as Walmart and has multiple partnerships [and] million [dollar] contracts with MinnCor and Anagram who are contributing to these unlawful acts. I believe that if the MN DOC, MinnCor, and Anagram can’t correct this issue they need to discontinue this program until they can find someone who can uphold these laws and policies.

What the MN DOC is doing to the incarcerated and formerly incarcerated is setting me up for more legal problems when I am released. I have been working on plans and goals for my future since my incarceration began. Now with these new obstacles in my way, it will contribute to more problems that will affect me in many ways. It will be harder for me to get a bank loan for the business I want to open up, it will affect my credit score for the property I want to buy, it will affect my social security fund in the future, and also it will affect me as a person who is on the road of change. But it’s hard to do all of that when the MN DOC is having the incarcerated commit tax evasion. This is [supposed] to be the department of corrections where they correct your behavior. This ain’t rehabilitation; this is continuing criminal behavior with the assistance of the MN DOC. Instead of fixing this problem and doing what the law says, the MN DOC would rather have me face future charges and be [indebted] to the government. The second question I asked was, “Does the government knows about this?” The answer I was given was that the change was “the result of a compliance check initiated by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS),” and so “the changes were made to comply with IRS regulations.”

After that response, I decided to follow up on that answer I was given. So I decided to write the IRS about these changes. I never received a reply. Then I decided to have my family contact the IRS and they were told that the IRS would never tell the MN DOC to stop deducting taxes from my wages.

So, I would like to know: Who approved this?

According to a report I read by the National Correctional Industries Association (NCIA) cited in a 2012 program history of the (PIECP) by Barbara Auerbach, “PIECP workers have contributed approximately $57 million to victims compensation funds, $171 million to cover some cost of incarceration, $36 million in family support and $75 million in taxes.” These deductions that the MN DOC was supposed to be taking were meant to ease the burden on tax payers. But now since the MN DOC has stopped deducting taxes from my wages and many others, how will this affect funding for the State of Minnesota and especially the Twin Cities? This tax revenue could be helping so many communities in the Twin Cities. Look at what’s going on with the homelessness problem in the Cities — those extra tax dollars could be used to build homeless shelters, open community centers for troubled kids, to build affordable housing for single mothers, to help fund more educational programs for low income families, and help people with job training skills throughout the Twin Cities. There are so many things and so many ways that the people of Minnesota can benefit from this tax revenue. And this situation would need to be resolved and it would need to happen immediately to prevent further damage to my life.

What I believe needs to happen is the MN DOC must reverse their decision, correct the error they caused, repay the back taxes that many of the incarcerated and formerly incarcerated owe, and follow the law that Congress enacted. The Congress and the IRS need to investigate what the DOC are doing and how they’re destroying my life and many other’s, and the Governor need to establish an oversight committee for the MN DOC and hold someone accountable. All of this comes from me wanting to pay my taxes, for me to stop working as an independent contractor, and not wanting to continue in criminal activities. You won’t find many working people like me in America let alone in prison who are demanding to do something I am fighting for.”

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