Two former inmates are challenging a Connecticut law that since 1997 has allowed the state to impose a debt on inmates for each day of their incarceration. In a class action lawsuit filed in federal court on Monday, the former inmates ask the court to declare their prison debt invalid and the statute permitting the collection of such debt to be void, Courthouse News Service reports.The daily incarceration fee in Connecticut is $249, or $90,885 annually. The statue says the fee is meant to recoup the state's expenditure in feeding and sheltering inmates. The suit charges that it traps former inmates in an oppressive debt cycle — a second incarceration — from which there is no escape. The plaintiffs are Teresa Beatty and Michael Llorens, former Connecticut inmates representing a putative class of over 30,000 others.
The complaint names Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont and Attorney General William Tong as defendants due to the power both individuals have over the state's Department of Corrections. The suit aims to wipe out Beatty's and Llorens' current debt, which between the pair is over $356,000. Like many other states, Connecticut's prison population is majority Black and Latino. Connecticut is not the only state that profits off its inmate population. Every state except Hawaii allows for the collection of daily "pay-to-stay" fees. Similarly, all states make use of prison labor programs in which inmates are compelled to work public and private jobs for a few cents an hour, if they are paid at all.