Biss05252016A measure that would bar state government from suing inmates and parolees for the cost of their prison room and board will go to Gov. Bruce Rauner for his signature.

The legislation, sponsored by Senator Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) and Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago), was approved by members of the Illinois House on Wednesday. It previously was approved by the Senate.

“Gov. Rauner has the opportunity to put an end to a practice that is unfair, overly punitive and fails the cost-benefit test. The state collects far less from these lawsuits than it costs to pursue them,” Biss said.

Senate Bill 2465 would prohibit 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 was rarely used until recently. A Chicago Tribune investigation raised questions about the practice.

Illinois has discretion in determining which inmates and parolees to sue. Most of them are poor and had received modest inheritances or civil settlements involving private matters or their arrest.

The state has recovered about a half-million dollars since 2010, but most of it was from two inmates.

“By pursuing these lawsuits, the state sends the wrong message about what it means for inmates to pay their debt to society,” Biss said. “Rather than encouraging them to make a fresh start when they’re released from prison, Illinois is choosing to push them toward a life of poverty, reliance on government support or recidivism.

“That’s the wrong approach, and I hope Gov. Rauner will see it that way, too.”

Category: News

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