When Kensley Hawkins was sent to prison for the 1980 murder of a man and the attempted murder of two Chicago police officers, he hoped his prison job would allow him to set some money aside to send to his daughter, who was reportedly 8-years-old at the time of his incarceration.
Though Hawkins' $75-per-month job building furniture at the Statesville Correctional Center in Joliet isn't much, he has managed to save up about $11,000 over the years. And now, the state wants its money back.
The Chicago Tribune reported Tuesday that Hawkins has been in court fighting to keep the money in his bank account, but the state says he owes them $455,203.14 to cover the cost of his incarceration.
The case has made it all the way to the Illinois Supreme Court, which began hearing arguments Tuesday.
"The reason you want Mr. Hawkins to keep his money is because he's gonna get out of prison some day, and when he gets out of prison, we want him to have saved his money so that he can take care of himself you don't want the public to have to pay for him," Hawkins' attorney, Ben Weinberg, told Fox Chicago.
John Maki, coordinating director of the John Howard Association of Illinois, agreed. He told the Tribune taking away the money would not "help create a prison culture that's more rehabilitative."
Under current Illinois law, prisoners are liable for the cost of their incarceration, but most inmates do not have a way to pay. The Department of Corrections usually goes after people who have more than $10,000 in assets, according to the Tribune. The state also allows IDOC to collect 3 percent of an inmate's wages, and Hawkins' lawyers say they are not entitled to any more than that. The Supreme Court is working to decide whether there is a conflict in these laws, and if so, how to resolve it.
"This man committed some horrible crimes," Jennifer Bishop-Jenkins of illinoisvictims.org. told Fox Chicago "I commend him for working to earn money in prison, but he has a debt to society, a debt that he owes not only to his victims, who he should make restitution to, but he should also make restitution to the state."
Lawyers for Hawkins told Business Week they want the state's $455,203.14 judgment against their client overturned, and for the state to stay away from his savings. Hawkins will be eligible for parole in 2028.