On August 24, the Court issued final approval of the proposed settlement and over $160,000 in settlement checks were sent out to class members by September 14. This decision acknowledges that all incarcerated individuals have property interest on the money in their accounts—meaning that money is protected by due process.
Lead plaintiff Marc Sparks, on behalf of himself and about 50 other incarcerated people in the state’s work release program, brought a lawsuit against the State for seizing their unemployment benefits without due process. The class members worked in the community through the work release program, but at the onset of the pandemic in March 2020, the class members were quarantined at the prison and lost their work release jobs.
The Department of Labor found the class members eligible for the special COVID-19 unemployment benefits and began making weekly cash payments into their prison accounts. However, the State seized the benefits from their prison accounts at Governor Mills' order, without providing the incarcerated workers notice of the decision or an opportunity to challenge it.
The settlement returns the unemployment benefits seized from the workers’ prison accounts and recognizes that the money in incarcerated individuals’ prison accounts is their property — meaning that the State can’t seize money from these accounts without due process.