HARTFORD -- Eight inmates who contributed to an award-winning book from behind bars have agreed to pay the state a portion of their royalties to help offset the cost of their incarceration, state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal announced yesterday.
Under the settlement, each female inmate will pay the state $500.
The women participated in a writing course taught by best-selling author Wally Lamb at York Correctional Institution.
Their work became the basis for the 2003 publication "Couldn't Keep It To Myself: Testimonies from our Imprisoned Sisters."
The Department of Correction temporarily halted the writing program earlier this month after questions arose over whether inmates should be allowed to profit from their work.
One inmate, Barbara Parsons Lane, won $25,000 prize from the PEN American Center for work featured in the book.
The state went to court last year in an attempt to seize the book's royalties at a rate of $117 a day under a state law that permits the state to recover incarceration costs from inmates.
The $4,000 settlement serves the interests of the writers and saves Connecticut taxpayers the "cost, time, and uncertainty" of legal action, Blumenthal said.
The settlement will permit the inmates to continue learning a skill and engage in free expression, Blumenthal said.
Representative Denise Merrill, Democrat of Mansfield, who appeared with Blumenthal, called it a "fair settlement to what could have been a very thorny issue."
Merrill said she is pushing for legislation that would revise current law intended to strip inmates of financial assets while housed at taxpayer expense.
The bill would allow state officials to distinguish between inmates making money from a skill and others who profit from committing a crime or have assets that can be applied to incarceration costs.
The York writing program will receive $3,500 and the remaining $500 will be paid to the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services.
The relatively small monetary amount was determined by factors such as ending the dispute and the modest financial gains made by the inmates, Blumenthal said.
"Instant riches were no longer a realistic prospect," the attorney general said.
Brian Garnett, a spokesman for the state Department of Correction, said the agency is "proud of the women and the program, which has a rehabilitation benefit."
A phone message for Lamb was left at his home.