The $31,690 Johnny Melton received to settle a lawsuit over his mother’s death was going to help him start life anew after prison. But before he was released, after 15 months in prison for a drug conviction, the Illinois Department of Corrections sued Melton and won nearly $20,000 to cover the cost of his incarceration. When Melton was paroled earlier this year, he was forced to go to a homeless shelter, then was taken in by a cousin. He got food stamps. When he died in June, according to his family, he was destitute.
“He didn’t have a dime,” said one of Melton’s sisters, Denise Melton, of Chicago. “We had to scuffle up money to cremate him.” The lawsuit against Melton was one of a small but growing number of cases the prisons department brings each year against inmates to recoup the cost of their imprisonment, an effort intended to help fund operations that makes convicted felons feel a financial pinch for their crimes — in addition to the time they do.
The lawsuits, in some cases, target convicted murderers or sex offenders serving lengthy prison terms. Some inmates will never get out; others will be released when they are elderly. But many of the lawsuits target less serious offenders who have earned or come into relatively modest sums of money, whether through an inheritance, a trust fund or, as in Melton’s case, the settlement of a wrongful death lawsuit. Full Article