Lawsuit: CT wants Jayson Negron’s mom to forfeit part of wrongful death settlement to cover her jail costs

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The pain of not being able to keep her son safe still haunts her, Tosado said in court documents.

It’s “part of the guilt I carry every day,” she said in court documents.

Now the 40-year-old Hamden resident said she must relive losing her son as the state is seeking a portion of the money she received to settle the wrongful death lawsuit she filed against the city of Bridgeport, according to attorneys representing her and others in a federal complaint seeking to end the practice of charging former inmates for the cost of their incarceration. 

“No family should have to bury a child, and the state is making that pain worse,” Tosado said in a statement released by the Connecticut chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, which is representing her and others in the lawsuit along with attorneys from Hurwitz Sagarin Slossberg & Knuff, LLC.

“I will never stop grieving Jayson,” she said. “The settlement in his death was the best acknowledgment we could get that they took his life, and that it was wrong. The state trying to take that money forces me and my family to relive the trauma of Jayson’s death, and it has left me angry and hurt. By joining this lawsuit, I am fighting for myself and for other families, because none of us should have to go through this.”

Tosado and Douglas Johnson, who served two years nearly 20 years ago for charges connected with a substance abuse addiction, recently joined the lawsuit filed in 2022 by Teresa Beatty, another formerly incarcerated individual who stands to lose more than $80,000 of an inheritance from her mother’s death. 

The plaintiffs are seeking to end the state’s cost of incarceration law, attorneys fees and whatever else a judge deems reasonable. 

A federal judge recently agreed that Beatty’s lawsuit, calling Connecticut prison liens against current and former inmates unconstitutional, can move forward. 

But she had to identify different defendants since the original officials she sued — Gov. Ned Lamont and Attorney General William Tong — don’t enforce the fines on “windfalls” by formerly incarcerated individuals, the judge ruled.

Now the three are suing the state Department of Correction Commissioner Angel Quiros and the state Department of Administrative Services Commissioner Michelle Gilman whose agencies set the amount for the liens and pursue the formerly incarcerated inmates for payment. 

Tong’s office, which will represent Gilman and Quiros in the lawsuit, declined to comment. 

Despite a recent change in state law that reduced the amount DAS can collect from formerly incarcerated people and narrowed the types of “windfalls” on which liens can be placed, the plaintiffs have still incurred hefty bills based on often misleading calculations, according to an amended complaint filed in the lawsuit last week. 

Although DAS officials are now supposed to deduct $50,000 from any amount of prison debt they pursue, the amount Beatty owes has not been reduced, her attorneys said. 

The amount that people potentially owe is also not based on the actual cost of incarceration, the lawsuit claims. Instead, it’s a calculation generated by DOC officials that often exaggerates the amount of money it takes to run the state’s prison system, the ACLU said in the complaint. 

For instance, the prison population dropped by 50 percent during the height of the pandemic compared to decades prior when it was at an all-time high around 20,000, the lawyers said. 

But the DOC maintained the same number of employees, even though there were fewer inmates, and added overtime costs due to the pandemic to the calculation, the lawsuit said. 

“The result of Connecticut having carte blanche to charge people for their own punishment is staggering,” the attorneys said in the lawsuit.

The prison debt generates about $5 million annually from former inmates who can be charged up to 20 years after they have served their time. The money does not go to running the prisons, the ACLU attorneys said. The money goes to the state’s general fund, according to state officials. 

Tosado was incarcerated from July 2016 to April 2018 on a weapons in a motor vehicle charge. Her son was killed in May 2017. 

According to the report of Waterbury State’s Attorney Maureen Platt who investigated the fatal use of police force, an undercover Bridgeport officer reported a stolen Subaru Forester was spotted in the area near Walgreens at 1000 Park Ave.

When responding officers arrived, they tried to pull over the vehicle. However, the driver, later identified as Negron, turned into the Walgreens parking lot with officers following before turning left into oncoming traffic on Fairfield Avenue, the investigation found.

Bridgeport Police Officer James Boulay got out of the car and approached the driver’s side of the Subaru with his gun drawn before shooting one of the car’s tires because, he said, Negron was using the vehicle dangerously, the report showed.

Platt’s report stated Boulay then opened the driver’s door and reached in to pull out Negron before the teenager tried to move away from the officer, putting the Subaru into reverse and stepping on the gas pedal.

The state’s attorney’s report said the door of the Subaru hit Boulay, who then fired his weapon into the vehicle, shooting Negron several times.

Medics pronounced Negron dead at the scene. Platt’s investigation determined Bouley “was justified” in using fatal force on the teen. 

Boulay was also cleared of any wrongdoing by an internal Bridgeport police investigation.

When prison officials told Tosado that her son had been killed, they placed her in solitary confinement, according to the lawsuit. 

Tosado is now a pharmacy technician who worked through the pandemic providing COVID-19 vaccinations, her attorneys said. She is also interning with New Reach, where she works with women and children affected by homelessness, poverty and domestic violence. 

As part of her internship, she is also pursuing a peer mentor certification through the Yale University School of Medicine/FORDD Clinic
Formerly Incarcerated Recovery Support Training program. She owes the state $44,028.98 from the wrongful death settlement to pay for her two-year incarceration, her attorneys said. 

“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,” said Dan Barrett, ACLU Foundation of Connecticut legal director and an attorney on the case. “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.” 

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