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John knew he had made poor decisions earlier in his life that led to a drug conviction and time in jail. After serving his sentence, he was released and spent the following five years working to rebuild his life and take care of his family. Now, out of the blue, John was devastated to learn that the state intended to seize money from a personal injury settlement to repay the costs of his incarceration many years ago.
For years, John struggled with the debt, and the prospect of it continuing for 20 years after his release caused him frustration, anger, and even confusion. However, with the recent passage of the new Connecticut incarceration lien law, John finally experienced hope of getting some relief.
As Connecticut personal injury lawyers, we believe that when someone pays their debt to society, we need to do everything we can to support them in moving forward in a positive direction. In this blog post, we explain the history of incarceration liens, the negative impact of these liens, and how the new Connecticut incarceration lien law helps former inmates like John rebuild their lives.
If you’re a former inmate and have questions about whether the state can seize funds you may collect from a personal injury lawsuit, contact the Connecticut personal injury attorneys at The Doctor Lawyer Team at (833) DLT-WINS or (833) 358-9467 to schedule your FREE case evaluation. We combine legal and medical expertise to help you obtain maximum compensation for your injuries.
Incarceration lien laws, or “pay-to-stay” laws, as critics call them, allow states to place a lien on the property of someone who has been incarcerated. This lien is intended to help the state recover the costs associated with an inmate's incarceration, such as housing and medical expenses. The amount of the lien varies from state to state.
The history of incarceration lien laws dates back to 1846 when Michigan became the first state to enact legislation authorizing counties to charge inmates for their time in jail. This was followed by other states, including Connecticut, which authorized cost-of-incarceration liens against lawsuit proceeds and inheritances.
However, these laws have been criticized for promoting intergenerational poverty and penalizing children who have already suffered economic and emotional hardship due to their parent's incarceration. In response, some states have taken steps to lessen the harm of these laws by exempting certain amounts of property from a lien or providing more lenient repayment plans.
In addition to the financial burden incarceration lien laws place on individuals and families, there are also concerns about how they may be used as a form of criminalization for private debt. For example, debtors' prisons were abolished by Congress in 1833, but some argue that incarceration lien laws are being used as a way to punish people for not paying debts.
Most states have some form of pay-to-stay law. However, not all states pursue individuals for reimbursement of their incarceration costs. Some states, such as Connecticut, have repealed or modified their pay-to-stay laws to create a more equitable justice system.
Incarceration liens create a cycle of poverty, making it difficult to break free from the resulting cycle of debt. The debt can be overwhelming for many former inmates, especially if they have lost everything while in jail and have no job or family to help them.
Until the passage of the new law that became effective on July 1, 2022, Connecticut's lien laws were among the harshest in the country, allowing the state to place a 50% lien on any lawsuit settlement, inheritance, or other windfall received by a formerly incarcerated individual for up to 20 years after their release.
These laws faced criticism for creating insurmountable debt for the formerly incarcerated, making it nearly impossible for them to rebuild their lives. This debt significantly impacted their ability to rebuild their life, making it nearly impossible to find employment, secure housing, or access credit.
In a victory for criminal justice reform advocates and personal injury victims, Connecticut took a step towards providing a fresh start to formerly incarcerated individuals by partially repealing its cost of incarceration lien law.
Here are the key changes in the new law regarding the state’s claim for incarceration costs:
The changes in the law were effective on passage and applicable to costs of incarceration incurred before, on, or after that date.
Except for inmates convicted of the serious crimes mentioned above, the new Connecticut incarceration lien law helps former inmates rebuild their lives by protecting some of their property from being seized to cover the costs of their incarceration.
Under the new law, up to $50,000 of an inmate's property is exempt from any lien imposed by the state. This means that formerly incarcerated individuals can keep those exempt assets and use them to help them re-enter society and start anew.
The law also prevents the state from claiming payment for incarceration costs from former inmates who have already served their sentences if the former inmate receives proceeds from a civil lawsuit, such as a personal injury lawsuit.
In addition, the changes to the law help break the cycle of intergenerational poverty that Connecticut's incarceration lien laws have perpetuated. By preventing the state from collecting payments from former inmates, it ensures that children who have already suffered economic and emotional hardship due to their parent's incarceration are not further penalized.
Debt reduction also means that individuals can focus on rebuilding their lives rather than struggling to repay debts for years to come. They can seek employment, secure housing, and access credit, which can help them to break free from the cycle of poverty.
Personal injury lawsuits are a common way for individuals to recover damages for injuries they have suffered. In the past, Connecticut's lien laws allowed the state to seize money awarded in personal injury lawsuits, creating a significant barrier for individuals seeking to recover from the harm they have suffered.
The new Connecticut incarceration lien law changes this. The state can only seize money awarded in personal injury lawsuits if the individual has served or is serving time for the serious offenses listed above. This means that personal injury victims can recover the damages they are owed without fear of having that money seized by the state.
The fight for criminal justice reform has been ongoing for many years. Advocacy groups, such as the Arthur Liman Center for Public Interest Law, have worked tirelessly to repeal the Connecticut lien law. Though only partially repealed, the new law is a significant victory for these groups and others fighting for criminal justice reform.
However, there is still much work to be done. The fight for criminal justice reform is ongoing, and individuals must continue to support legislation that helps formerly incarcerated individuals rebuild their lives and get out from under the shackles of such draconian laws as incarceration lien laws.
If you have been impacted by Connecticut's incarceration lien law and are worried about your personal injury settlement, know that you don't have to go through this alone. The Doctor Lawyer Team is here to help. Don't let the stress and uncertainty of this situation continue – reach out to us today to schedule your FREE case evaluation.
At The Doctor Lawyer Team, we are a veteran-owned personal injury law firm with over 40 years of trial experience and a proven track record of success. We are dedicated to protecting your rights and will fight for you to ensure you receive fair, just, and reasonable compensation for all your injuries.
Attorney Paul McConnell is a former Marine Corps infantry officer, federal prosecutor, and trial judge. Dr. Michael Giordano is a board-certified neurosurgeon and an attorney with an active background in reviewing personal injury and medical malpractice cases for over 18 years, including several years at one of Connecticut’s most respected personal injury and medical malpractice firms.
This gives you a unique advantage because The Doctor Lawyer Team combines legal and medical expertise to help you obtain compensation for your damages, including medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other issues you may face because of your injury. We also work on a contingency basis, meaning we only get paid from the proceeds if you win your case.
Contact The Doctor Lawyer Team today to schedule your FREE case evaluation by calling our Connecticut medical malpractice lawyers at (833) DLT-WINS or (833) 358-9467 to learn more about your legal rights and best options for recovery. We have offices in: Hartford, New Haven, Groton, Bridgeport, New Canaan, and Greenwich. If more convenient, you can also complete our online form here.
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The information in this blog post (“post”) is provided for general informational purposes only and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. No information in this post should be construed as legal advice from the individual author or the law firm, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting based on any information included in or accessible through this post without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer licensed in the recipient’s state, country, or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.
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