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Connecticut Partially Repeals Controversial "Pay to Stay" Law

CONNECTICUT – In a major victory for criminal justice reform advocates, as well as personal injury victims, Connecticut has taken a step towards providing a fresh start to formerly incarcerated individuals by partially repealing its cost of incarceration lien law, also referred to by critics as the "pay to stay" law. The law, enacted in 1995, allowed 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 as a means of reimbursement for their time behind bars.

Until 2019, all but two states (Maine and Vermont) had pay to stay laws – though not every state has chosen to pursue the individuals for reimbursement. In 2019, Illinois and New Hampshire repealed their pay to stay laws as a move towards a fairer justice system.

With one of the country’s harshest pay to stay laws, the state of Connecticut faced criticism for creating insurmountable debt for those who have been incarcerated and limiting their prospects after release. It was an enormous obstacle for those that paid their debt to society and where trying to move forward with productive, positive lives.

The Arthur Liman Center for Public Interest Law and its partners worked tirelessly to repeal the law. Though their original bill did not pass, they were successful in including some of its language with amendments in the state's 2023 budget bill (Bill). The Bill was signed into law by Governor Ned Lamont on May 9, 2022, becoming effective on July 1, 2022.

Here are the key changes in the Bill regarding the state’s claim for incarceration costs:

  • In addition to existing allowed exemptions, the new law also exempts up to $50,000 of an inmate’s other assets, EXCEPT for a limited number of former inmates incarcerated for certain serious offenses.
  • The state can still seize money received through lottery or inheritance, but it can ONLY seize money awarded in civil lawsuits - to include personal injury lawsuits - if the individual has served or is serving time for a limited number of very serious offenses.

The changes in the law were effective on passage and applicable to costs of incarceration incurred before, on, or after that date.

Attorney Paul McConnell from The Doctor Lawyer Team personal injury firm applauds the new law as a big step in the right direction. "Incarceration liens are draconian and negatively impact the cycle of poverty. After someone pays their debt to society, we need to do everything we can to support them in moving forward in a positive direction. While the new law doesn't completely eradicate incarceration liens, it is a positive step, and we salute the Legislature and Governor for doing the right thing."

In addition to his personal injury practice covering all of Connecticut, Attorney McConnell is a board member for the Watkinson Prisoners' Aid Society, a non-profit organization that financially supports Connecticut organizations devoted to assisting former prisoners to productively transition back into society.

About Watkinson Prisoners' Aid Society

The Watkinson Prisoners' Aid Society is a non-profit organization founded in 1934 and based in Hartford, Connecticut, that works to help inmates transition back into society after their release from prison. The organization provides various services, including helping inmates find employment, housing, and educational and vocational training. Additionally, the Watkinson Prisoners' Aid Society helps inmates with legal issues and provides access to mental health and substance abuse counseling. The organization also helps inmates build a support network and develop life skills.

About The Doctor Lawyer Team

At The Doctor Lawyer Team, we are dedicated to serving our clients and their families in achieving justice in the face of adversity. Founding attorneys Paul McConnell and Dr. Michael Giordano are trial lawyers with the experience and success to ensure you enjoy your legal rights. Dr. Giordano is a board-certified neurosurgeon and attorney, and attorney Paul McConnell is a former Judge and federal prosecutor.

We are a veteran-owned personal injury law firm that combines legal and medical expertise to deliver results, and we have unparalleled and uncompromising professional standards. Our personal injury doctor/lawyer team represents victims of serious injuries and families of those who have died because of incidents that occurred due to negligence.

We also help military families, both stateside and abroad, recover compensation if a family member or dependent has suffered injury through negligence or malpractice of a military doctor, VA hospital, or other medical facility. For nearly all our professional lives, we have been committed to serving alongside service members with “Mission Accomplishment” as the hallmark of our calling.

If you or a family member have been injured, our team can help. Our personal injury doctor/lawyer team represents victims of serious injuries as well as families of those who have died as a result of incidents that occurred due to negligence. Call The Doctor Lawyer Team at (833) DLT-WINS; (833) 358-9467 to schedule your free consultation.

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