CT residents join lawsuit over state’s prison debt law


Two plaintiffs who are Connecticut residents recently joined a lawsuit over the United States’ “prison debt law,” according to the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Connecticut. 

The plaintiffs, Natasha Tosado of Hamden and Doug Johnson of Branford, are suing Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont and Attorney General William Tong for the law, under which every person who has been incarcerated in the state is mandated to pay “hundreds of dollars for each day they spent in prison,” ACLU CT says. 

Teresa Beatty first filed the lawsuit on March 14, 2022, in the U.S. District Court on behalf of over 30,000 people who owe prison debt to the state of Connecticut, according to ACLU CT’s website. The lawsuit concerns those who were imprisoned anytime from Oct. 1, 1997 to now. 

Beatty was incarcerated from 2000 to 2022 for drug charges, and was ordered by the state to pay more than $83,700 for her time spent in prison. She remains a plaintiff, along with Tosado and Johnson, in the case against the state. 

Connecticut’s prison debt law currently charges $249 per day, as the plaintiffs mentioned in their amended complaint to the state. That number equates to $90,885 per year, which exceeds the average in-state student’s tuition for 2.5 years at UConn, the ACLU says. 

“[$90,885 is] more than what an in-state student would owe for 2.5 years’ attendance at UCONN, including housing, food, and books,” the ACLU states on their website. “This debt follows them for decades, decimating inheritances from deceased loved ones, proceeds from lawsuits, and, ultimately, anything a person leaves upon their death.” 

The plaintiffs’ complaint to the state also mentions that Connecticut’s prison debt rates are among the “highest in the country,” and that with each year people are charged more for their incarceration time than in past years. 

“As Connecticut spends more and more money incarcerating fewer and fewer people, each person’s carceral debt spirals upward”

“As Connecticut spends more and more money incarcerating fewer and fewer people, each person’s carceral debt spirals upward,” the complaint reads. “Connecticut has gone from charging people $31,755 a year for their own incarceration in 1997, to charging $90,885 today: a roughly 280% increase. By contrast, according to the Consumer Price Index, inflation has only increased 87% during this same time period.” 

The U.S. District Court officially ruled on March 6, 2023 that Beatty could sue to end the prison debt law in Connecticut and have her lawsuit proceed if she substitutes a different set of state defendants. The attorneys currently involved in the case are Dan Barret, Elana Bildner and Sapana Anand of the CT ACLU Foundation. 

Barrett, who is ACLU CT’s legal director, acknowledged the plaintiffs for their courage in the case. 

“Ms. Beatty, Ms. Tosado and Mr. Johnson have shown tremendous courage in speaking out for themselves and all formerly incarcerated people and their loved ones,” Barrett said. “Connecticut’s prison debt statute is cruel and unconstitutional. Because of systemic racism in the criminal legal system, prison debt also disproportionately hurts Black and Latinx people in our state. It’s high past time for Connecticut to end prison debt.” 

More information about Tosado and Johnson’s individual experiences with incarceration can be found in a press release by the CT ACLU, and additional details regarding the lawsuit can be found on their website


  1. Wow finally someone who cares I am too one of those who got $86,987,000 taken away from them for being incarcerated I would like this to stop and how do I go about it please get back at me email jlugo4013@gmail.com or my # 8608798522 . If there’s anything I can do to stop this I would love to help thank you so much

  2. I hope they win. In most states the jails are privately owned for-profit institutions. There is a lot of states that have contracts with the jails that if they don’t keep them at or above a certain percentage full they get penalized. Is there making ridiculous amounts of money on incarcerated people to begin with? It’s kind of crazy they want to take the money once the people are out trying to get on their feet. I would think that money would do the incarcerated person a lot better. Then the jail.

  3. Double jeopardy. Nobody in court told anybody about cost of incarceration either after trial or in a plea agreement. Being punished twice for the same crimes.

    • I have read a few articles about this case and have not seen the Double Jeopardy being used in this case. Double jeopardy is unconstitutional.

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