The man who challenged the “pay to stay” law covering adult prisoners is no longer facing a bill for the four years he spent in prison on a negligent homicide conviction, his lawyers said.
The state Department of Corrections has dropped its action to collect about $120,000 in payments from Eric Cable, according to the American Civil Liberties Union-New Hampshire.
Likewise, Cable has dropped a medical malpractice lawsuit against the Department of Corrections that alleged faulty medical care resulted in a loss of his peripheral vision.
“Both sides agreed to drop their lawsuits. Eric Cable is no longer being sued for the cost of his incarceration,” said Ariana Schechter, a spokeswoman for the ACLU.
Gov. Chris Sununu last week signed House Bill 518, which repealed the law that allowed the state to sue people for the cost of their incarceration.
“After my incarceration, I immediately felt how difficult it was going to be just to find a job and reintegrate into society — and even now, I am working two jobs just to make ends meet,” Cable said in a statement provided by ACLU. “I couldn’t believe that after I served my time, the state was going to sue me for over $120,000.”
Cable thanked the ACLU for advocating for him.
“I would also like to thank every legislator that listened to me testify and to Governor Sununu for ensuring that this unfair law is not used ever again,” he said.
The ACLU said such pay-to-stay bills were on top of fines, forfeiture and other penalties a judge can impose.
“Formerly incarcerated people already face felony convictions and gaps in their work history that make finding employment and housing extremely difficult. The pay-to-stay statute only made it that much harder for formerly incarcerated people in New Hampshire to get back on their feet,” said Henry Klementowicz, staff attorney at the ACLU of New Hampshire, in a statement.
In a statement, the Corrections Department said it will make the necessary adjustments to comply with the law. It noted the pay-to-stay law “was designed to help lessen the burden of incarceration costs to the taxpayers of the state of New Hampshire.”
However, the ACLU discovered only 12 instances of the state seeking payments for incarceration over the last 10 years. The juvenile justice system in New Hampshire was more aggressive, collecting $930,600 in the 2018 budget year.
House Bill 518 does not apply to the juvenile justice system, nor does it apply retroactively. As of February, only two people were paying to stay. One of them is multi-millionaire John Brooks, who was convicted of first-degree murder and other crimes in 2008.
The new law goes into effect on Sept. 8.
According to the ACLU, Cable was the first person to be charged following his release from prison. He claimed the charges were retaliation for his medical malpractice lawsuit.
A judge was not convinced and in February allowed the Department of Corrections to continue its suit against Cable for the incarceration bill.