No Illinois Lawsuits Against Prisoners For 1 1/2 Years

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The Illinois Department of Corrections appears to have shelved its widely criticized practice of suing prisoners to recover the costs of their incarceration in spite of Gov. Bruce Rauner’s support for the strategy, the Chicago Tribune reports. State prison officials have not referred a single case to the Illinois Attorney General’s office for possible litigation for nearly 1 1/2 years. The last case, submitted in December 2015, was rejected by Attorney General Lisa Madigan because it lacked key information about the prisoner’s financial assets. The turnabout came after a Tribune story in November 2015 highlighted the controversial practice, prompting calls for its end from state lawmakers and the passage of legislation vetoed by Rauner.

Nicole Wilson, spokeswoman for the Department of Corrections, said the department has not abandoned its policy of suing inmates for the cost of locking them up. “The Illinois Department of Corrections continues to review offender assets for the recovery of expenses incurred during incarceration as the law authorizes,” Wilson said. “The law exists to ensure offenders do not profit from the crimes they commit.” The law was passed in 1982 after serial killer John Wayne Gacy began selling paintings from death row. Illinois is one of at least 43 states that allows officials to try to recoup what often are called room-and-board fees from prisoners and parolees. The state Department of Corrections gathers information about prisoners’ assets from their mail and other documents, and refers potential cases to the attorney general’s office, which then decides whether to file a lawsuit to obtain a prisoner’s money. Critics say such lawsuits recover little money and are overly punitive.

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