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Advocates want to repeal system they say keeps former Connecticut inmates in debt

Mark Lennihan

Connecticut’s state judiciary committee has prioritized a proposal that repeals the state’s incarceration lien.

The debt repayment system allows the state to collect inheritances and legal settlements from inmates to pay their debts, preventing them from having the ability to “move forward and provide for their families” after prison, said state Representative Steve Stafstrom, who co-chairs the committee.

State Senator Gary Winfield, also a committee co-chair, said imposing a lien creates an additional burden for people who have served their time.

“I think that it’s an important issue,” Winfield said. “I also think that the impact it has had on communities is actually quite devastating.”

Advocates said formerly incarcerated people already have difficulty finding housing, jobs and education after prison. They said the system takes money out of their pockets that they need to rejoin their communities.

Connecticut NAACP President Scot Esdaile said it stands a good chance to be repealed in the Legislature.

“I always start at around 55-to-60%, then you kick the can down the road,” Esdaile said. “We do have some good people around the table, but we have to expand the operation.”

The state judiciary committee will hold a public hearing on the proposed repeal in March.

Mike Lyle is a former reporter and host at WSHU.