Illinois Ponders Changing the Law When It Comes to Suing Former Prisoners for the Cost of Incarceration
Imagine spending several years behind bars for a drugs or weapons offense. You made a mistake and you’ve done your time. When your sentence is up, you’re ready to find a job and be a responsible member of society again. You even receive a small inheritance from a distant relative soon after your release and plan to use it to start your new life. Everything seems to be turning around.
And then the state of Illinois comes calling. It wants that inheritance, and then some for the money it spent incarcerating you for all those years. That scenario may sound like a bureaucratic nightmare, but it’s unfortunately all too real for some former inmates in the state of Illinois. And completely legal.
The State Reconsiders an Old Law
Under 730 ILCS 125/20(a), a law that has been on the books since 1982, the local State’s Attorney’s Office is authorized to “institute civil actions in the circuit court of the county in which the jail is located to recover from such convicted confined persons the expenses incurred by their confinement.”
The law was apparently ignored for almost three decades, but in recent years, several State’s Attorney’s Offices, including Cook County, have used it to attempt to recoup the cost of incarceration from several former inmates. In most cases, the few thousand dollars that the state may recover barely covers the costs of pursuing the lawsuit. But according the Chicago Tribune, the law has been the basis for more than 30 lawsuits filed by State’s Attorneys since 2010.
In most cases, the lawsuits were only filed after a former inmate came into money from an inheritance or trust fund, but in at least one case the lawsuit appeared to be retaliatory. That suit was filed against the former inmate after he received a sizable settlement from the Department of Corrections for failing to properly treat his cancer.
In light of the public outcry against the practice of suing former inmates who are attempting to turn their lives around, the Illinois legislature has considered removing the law from the books. The change to the law has received bipartisan support in Springfield and is very likely to pass in 2016. However, until that change actually does go into effect, former inmates are at risk of being sued for the time they spent behind bars.
Chicago Defense Lawyer
No one wants to go to prison, and after spending years there, the last thing anyone wants to deal with while trying to get their life in order is a lawsuit from the state of Illinois seeking reimbursement for the time they spent there. If you’ve been charged with a crime or are facing a lawsuit related to your incarceration from the state of Illinois, an experienced Cook County criminal defense attorney represent your interests in court. For more information, contact Barney & Hourihane today for a consultation.