- Published: Friday, August 19, 2016 05:59 PM
The state of Illinois will continue its mean-spirited and counterproductive practice of suing prison inmates and parolees to recoup the cost of their incarceration because the governor vetoed a measure that would have put a stop to the practice across the board.
The legislation, sponsored by Senator Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) and Representative Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago), was sparked by a Chicago Tribune investigation that exposed the legal but morally questionable practice that often targets current and former inmates who come into small inheritances or court settlements stemming from their arrest and incarceration.
“Enabling the state of Illinois to use the courts to pursue inmates and parolees for the cost of their incarceration is an example of wasteful, illogical government,” Biss said.
“Gov. Rauner claims that he wants to do away with governmental programs that fail to produce a return on investment for taxpayers. These lawsuits are Exhibit A. It costs far more to pursue these lawsuits than the state recoups from them.”
Senate Bill 2465 would have prohibited the Illinois Department of Corrections from suing current and former inmates to recoup the cost of their incarceration. Illinois has had a law allowing the state to sue inmates since 1982, but it rarely was used until recently. Victims always have been able to pursue civil action against wealthy perpetrators of crime against them, and it remains illegal to profit from the commission of a crime.
“This reprehensible practice is an example of crony capitalism run amok. Wexford Health, a private company, is profiting from the administration of a program that hampers the state’s ability to pursue its stated goals of rehabilitation and integration,” Cassidy said. “It is shocking that Gov. Rauner is unwilling to put a stop to this.”
The state has recovered about a half-million dollars in the past six years, and most of that was from just two inmates.
Illinois has discretion in determining which inmates and parolees to sue. Most are poor and had received modest inheritances or civil settlements involving private matters.
Given this discretion, and because SB2645 will not become law, Biss and Cassidy urged the Illinois Department of Corrections and Attorney General Lisa Madigan to take matters into their own hands.
“Because Gov. Rauner is unwilling to sign legislation banning the ineffective and immoral practice of suing to recover costs of incarceration, we are calling upon you to make this step unilaterally,” Biss and Cassidy said. “In the name of advancing our shared goals of fully reintegrating ex-offenders into society, please stop bringing these lawsuits.”