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New plaintiffs join lawsuit to eliminate Connecticut's prison debt law

View of an empty prison corridor
WIN-Initiative/Neleman/Getty Images
View of an empty prison corridor

A lawsuit against members of the Lamont administration seeks to eliminate Connecticut’s prison debt law. The state can charge incarcerated people $249 for each day they are in prison. That is more than $90,000 a year.

Beatty vs. Lamont claims the law is unconstitutional, and puts former inmates in impossible situations.

Connecticut revised the law last year so that it only applies to more serious crimes, and knocks off the first $50,000 in debt. But, the state can still collect debt that was on the books from before changes were made.

Two new plaintiffs joined the lawsuit on Thursday.

Doug Johnson from Branford, served a two-year sentence about two decades ago. He said the state took a portion of his mother’s inheritance from him, and claims they now want to take his land. He also worries he may have to sell other family heirlooms to cover his remaining debt.

Natasha Tosado was incarcerated between 2016 and 2018. While in prison, Bridgeport police wrongfully shot and killed her teenage son. After Tosado and her son's father sued the city and the officer responsible, the city agreed to settle. Now, the state is attempting to keep part of her portion of the settlement under the prison debt law.

The plaintiffs are represented by lawyers from Hurwitz Sagarin Slossberg & Knuff, LLC and the ACLU Foundation of Connecticut.

Sabrina is host and producer of WSHU’s daily podcast After All Things. She also produces the climate podcast Higher Ground and other long-form news and music programs at the station. Sabrina spent two years as a WSHU fellow, working as a reporter and assisting with production of The Full Story.