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The People of the State of Illinois Ex Rel. Illinois Department of Corrections v. Kensley Hawkins

June 16, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Garman

JUSTICE GARMAN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.

Chief Justice Kilbride and Justices Thomas, Burke, and Theis concurred in the judgment and opinion.

Justice Karmeier specially concurred, with opinion, joined by Justice Freeman.


Plaintiff, the Illinois Department of Corrections, brought suit against defendant Kensley Hawkins to recover the costs of Hawkins' incarceration. After cross-motions for summary judgment, the circuit court of Will County entered judgment in favor of the Department against defendant for $455,203.14. However, the court precluded the Department from satisfying any of the judgment out of the money defendant had earned while working for prison industry. Both parties appealed. The appellate court affirmed the judgment against defendant, but it reversed the trial court's decision with respect defendant's prison earnings. 402 Ill. App. 3d 204. Defendant appealed, and we now reverse in part and affirm in part.


This case arises out of several related sections of the Unified Code of Corrections (730 ILCS 5/1--1--1 et seq. (West 2008)).*fn1 Section 3--7--6(a) of the Unified Code of Corrections (730 ILCS 5/3--7--6(a) (West 2008)) establishes the responsibility of a "committed person" for the costs of his or her incarceration:

"(a) Responsibility of committed persons. For the purposes of this Section, 'committed persons' mean those persons who through judicial determination have been placed in the custody of the Department on the basis of a conviction as an adult. Committed persons shall be responsible to reimburse the Department for the expenses incurred by their incarceration at a rate to be determined by the Department in accordance with this Section." 730 ILCS 5/3--7--6(a) (West 2008).

Section 3--7--6(a)(1) requires committed persons to "fully cooperate with the Department by providing complete financial information for the purposes under this Section." Section 3--7--6(a--5) directs the Department to develop a form to use to collect information from inmates, including "the age and marital status of [the] committed person, the number and ages of children of the person, the number and ages of other dependents, the type and value of real estate, the type and value of personal property, cash and bank accounts, the location of any lock boxes, the type and value of investments, pensions and annuities and any other personalty of significant cash value, including but not limited to jewelry, art work and collectibles, and all medical or dental insurance policies covering the committed person. The form may also provide for other information deemed pertinent by the Department in the investigation of a committed person's assets." 730 ILCS 5/3--7--6(a--5)(2) (West 2008).

Section 3--7--6(b) establishes the rate at which the costs of incarceration shall be calculated as "the average per capita cost per day for all inmates of that institution or facility for that fiscal year," and it describes how the Department is to calculate that cost. 730 ILCS 5/3--7--6(b) (West 2008). Section 3--7--6(c) provides how the costs calculated under section 3--7--6(b) may be proved. 730 ILCS 5/3--7--6(c) (West 2008).

Section 3--7--6(d), entitled "Authority," defines when an action may be pursued to collect reimbursement from a committed person:

"The Director [of the Department], or the Director's designee, may, when he or she knows or reasonably believes that a committed person, or the estate of that person, has assets which may be used to satisfy all or part of a judgment rendered under this Act, or when he or she knows or reasonably believes that a committed person is engaged in gang-related activity and has a substantial sum of money or other assets, provide for the forwarding to the Attorney General of a report on the committed person and that report shall contain a completed form under subsection (a--5) together with all other information available concerning the assets of the committed person and an estimate of the total expenses for that committed person, and authorize the Attorney General to institute proceedings to require the persons, or the estates of the persons, to reimburse the Department for the expenses incurred by their incarceration. The Attorney General, upon authorization of the Director, or the Director's designee, shall institute actions on behalf of the Department and pursue claims on the Department's behalf in probate and bankruptcy proceedings, to recover from committed persons the expenses incurred by their confinement. For purposes of this subsection (d), 'gang-related' activity has the meaning ascribed to it in Section 10 of the Illinois Streetgang Terrorism Omnibus Prevention Act." 730 ILCS 5/3--7--6(d) (West 2008).

The last subsection, section 3--7--6(e), provides:

"(e) Scope and limitations.

(1) No action under this Section shall be initiated more than 2 years after the release or death of the committed person in question.

(2) The death of a convicted person, by execution or otherwise, while committed to a Department correctional institution or facility shall not act as a bar to any action or proceeding under this Section.

(3) The assets of a committed person, for the purposes of this Section, shall include any property, tangible or intangible, real or personal, belonging to or due to a committed or formerly committed person including income or payments to the person from social security, worker's compensation, veteran's compensation, pension benefits, or from any other source whatsoever and any and all assets and property of whatever character held in the name of the person, held for the benefit of the person, or payable or otherwise deliverable to the person. Any trust, or portion of a trust, of which a convicted person is a beneficiary, shall be construed as an asset of the person, to the extent that benefits thereunder are required to be paid to the person, or shall in fact be paid to the person. At the time of a legal proceeding by the Attorney General under this Section, if it appears that the committed person has any assets which ought to be subjected to the claim of the Department under this Section, the court may issue an order requiring any person, corporation, or other legal entity possessed or having custody of those assets to appropriate any of the assets or a portion thereof toward reimbursing the Department as provided for under this Section. No provision of this Section shall be construed in violation of any State or federal limitation on the collection of money judgments.

(4) Nothing in this Section shall preclude the Department from applying federal benefits that are specifically provided for the care and treatment of a committed person toward the cost of care provided by a State facility or private agency." 730 ILCS 5/3--7--6(e) (West 2008).

Also at issue in this case is section 3--12--5 of the Code, which involves compensation paid to incarcerated persons who work while incarcerated. That section provides:

"ยง3--12--5. Compensation. Persons performing a work assignment under subsection (a) of Section 3--12--2 [730 ILCS 5/3--12--2(a)] may receive wages under rules and regulations of the Department. In determining rates of compensation, the Department shall consider the effort, skill and economic value of the work performed. Compensation may be given to persons who participate in other programs of the Department. Of the compensation earned pursuant to this Section, a portion, as determined by the Department, shall be used to offset the cost of the committed person's incarceration. If the committed person files a lawsuit determined frivolous under Article XXII of the Code of Civil Procedure [735 ILCS 5/22--105], 50% of the compensation shall be used to offset the filing fees and costs of the lawsuit as provided in that Article until all fees and costs are paid in full. All other wages shall be deposited in the individual's account ...

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