Disgraced R&B singer R. Kelly may be in for another financial blow. There is a current tug of war between the Bureau of Prisons and Department of Justice over forcing inmates to pay more toward victim restitution fees, and the R. Kelly case might be smack in the middle of it.
Certain revenue from money inmates keep in prison commissary accounts helps pay salaries and benefits for many agency staff positions. There is a move afoot to instead have the inmates pay more money to victim restitution, which the BOP opposes because it could mean less money it earns in interest on inmate money and shares of the profits from commissary sales.
Inmates such as the Grammy-winning singer could be affected by a Justice Department proposal to dramatically increase payments to these pots without regard to the inmates’ financial state, a Washington Post report reveals. While R. Kelly has more stashed in his prison account than many others, the decision could be a major hit to other inmates. Still, R. Kelly’s legal team claims such a move would be unfair to the singer.
Kelly, who was sentenced in June 2022 to serve 30 years in prison for sex trafficking, has already experienced a deep tumble from a net worth of over $100 million to being in the red by now having a debt of $2 million.
As a part of his sentencing, a federal judge ordered the crooner to pay $140,000 in fines, including one penalty of $40,000 for a fund for human-trafficking victims. The Post reports that Bureau of Prisons insider claims Kelly has $28,000 on his books. Like most prisoners, has taken only incremental steps to pay down on his court-ordered restitution from his prison account. Prisoners
But the proposed changes for inmate prison accounts may put Kelly further in the hole.
In July, Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco of the U.S. Department of Justice measured what a mandatory increase to pay toward judgments might be. Senior Bureau of Prisons officials think that only a 25 percent increase should be taken from an inmate’s prison account to fulfill their order. Prisoners typically pay only $25 every three months toward restitution from their prison accounts.
Under this agreement, Kelly would have to give approximately $7,000 from his prison account, leaving him with $21,000.
Another concern of his lawyers is that Kelly’s information, financial and personal, has been shared by the Bureau of Prisons with the public.
The singer’s lawyer, Jennifer Bonjean, told the Post this week, “My client has an appeal pending, and until the Second Circuit affirms his conviction, nobody should be touching any of his money.”
She also notes that she didn’t know the amount he had in his prison account, saying, “neither the BOP nor any entity should have anything to say about whatever money he has in his commissary account.”
This is not the first-time information about Kelly’s prison life has been leaked to the public. His former team released some information.
In 2021, Billboard reported that the “Step in the Name of Love” singer spends more than 20 hours a day in an 8×10, two-person cell, eating packages of ramen noodles prepared on an electric tray.
At the time, he was not able to hang out with other inmates in the dormitory-style unit because of COVID-19 restrictions but because he was placed in segregation at times area because other inmates had once attacked him.
His attorney Michael Leonard then said one issue was how much he had to pay for certain items.
The lawyer shared, “You can get, for instance, seven packs of Ramen noodles or six pouches of tuna per week and two packs of cookies and most people there are living on that stuff,” adding commissary items like MP3 players cost $90 on the inside.
And like all the other inmates, he is limited to spending approximately $400 per month in the commissary, and he has to pay the full price for the items.