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New Bill Would Prohibit Suing Inmates for Incarceration Costs

Posted on in Criminal Law

proposed law, Arlington Heights criminal defense attorneyA newly-introduced bill that recently received the endorsement of an Illinois Senate committee would ban the state from suing former and current inmates for the cost of their incarceration. There are dozens of cases in which inmates have been sued by the Department of Corrections after they have come into money. Even the current Attorney General – whose office is in charge of the litigation – has referred to the practice of seizing prisoners’ assets as raising “moral” questions and needs to be reevaluated. Lawmakers in favor of banning the lawsuits say that going after inmates’ assets defeats the purpose of rehabilitation, making it difficult for them to get back on their feet once they are released.

Tragic Example

In one case, a man was incarcerated for 15 months following conviction on drug charges. During his sentence, he received a settlement for the wrongful death of his mother totalling just under $32,000. The man had planned on using those funds to start a new life when he was released, however, the Corrections Department sued him for the cost of his incarceration and won. When the man was released from prison, he had no money and was forced to live in a homeless shelter. The man died last June and his family reports he was destitute.

There are countless other cases of prisoners who come into inheritances or other funds where the Department suddenly decides that prisoner is required to pay for the price of their incarceration. There have also been cases where a prisoner has successfully sued the Department, who then counter-sues the inmate for even more money than what they were awarded, leaving many to ask if this is just punitive action against the inmate.

Suit and Counter-Suits

A prisoner successfully sued the department for failing to provide proper medical treatment for cancer. He settled the case for $50,000, but the Department then turned around and sued him for $175,000, even though they had agreed in the settlement not to do so. The Department eventually dropped their case.

Many against the practice also point out that the cost of such litigation is often more than the amounts the state actually collects. For the inmate, however, these funds can make the difference of turning their life around or ending up back in the system. 

If you have been arrested and jail time is a possibility, it is critical to contact an Arlington Heights defense attorney to represent whatever charges you may be facing. Call Scott F. Anderson, Attorney at Law at 847-253-3400 today.

 

Sources:

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/politics/ct-illinois-prisoner-lawsuit-met-20160302-story.html
http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-prison-fees-lawsuits-met-20151129-story.html

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