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ACLU sues to stop Connecticut from charging people for their own imprisonment

Solitary Confinement Reform-NY
Bebeto Matthews
Associated Press
A solitary confinement cell at New York City's Riker's Island jail.

Prison inmates in Connecticut have to pay for their own incarceration: the state charges people a $250 daily fee for their prison time. Dan Barrett of the ACLU said it’s a remnant of the 1990s tough-on-crime laws.

“It’s not clear to me why the Legislature thought it was appropriate to saddle people with debts exceeding … what a couple years at [the University of Connecticut] would cost,” Barrett said. “But it’s a historical artifact of failed policy.”

The ACLU is suing the state to end the practice. The class-action lawsuit argues the law is illegal under the excessive debts clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Barrett said at least 30,000 people owe the state money from their time in prison — and one co-plaintiff on their lawsuit owes more than $80,000. If the lawsuit is successful, he said their debts would be canceled.

Davis Dunavin loves telling stories, whether on the radio or around the campfire. He started in Missouri and ended up in Connecticut, which, he'd like to point out, is the same geographic trajectory taken by Mark Twain.