An inmate seeking a new pair of sneakers was one of several state prisoners to have his request shot down by lawmakers during their review of claims made against the state.
On Monday, the Arkansas Legislative Council's Claims Review Subcommittee met and ruled on 21 different claims that had been made and adjudicated within the Arkansas Claims Commission, which hears from individuals and businesses requesting restitution from the state that would otherwise be barred by sovereign immunity in state court.
Of the claims reviewed by lawmakers, 14 were from state prisoners, and legislators denied compensation to all but one.
Kenneth Pitts, 59, whose shoe request was denied, is a serial sex offender and was most recently sentenced in 2006 to serve 75 years for sex crimes committed in Pulaski County.
In March 2014, Pitts was sent to an isolation unit for nearly three months, and before going into the unit, turned over his personal property to the prison's property-control officers.
When he was released back into general population June 10 at the Tucker Unit in Jefferson County, Pitts recovered his property and signed a form acknowledging receipt of the items.
But Pitts later said his canvas Reebok Classics, size 12, had never been returned.
He filed a complaint with the claims commission on July 30, 2014, demanding payment for the lost shoes and on March 13, 2015, the commission found the prison officials liable and ordered them to issue Pitts a voucher for $36.42.
Attorneys for the state prison system appealed the commission's ruling.
Ultimately, lawmakers voted to reverse the commission's decision and not grant Pitts a new pair of shoes.
Rep. Bob Ballinger, R-Hindsville, the subcommittee's co-chairman, said Pitts' inability to follow the process in place at prison led lawmakers to deny him new shoes.
"I don't think it's the right place to put the onus on the Department of Corrections to make sure [the inmates] got all their stuff," Ballinger said.
Another inmate won an adjusted claim for compensation after a February attack that left him with several injuries and chronic headaches.
Tim Axelson, 47, who is serving a 25-year sentence for rape, filed a complaint with the commission in April 2014 claiming that prison guards failed to follow procedures when they admitted an unauthorized inmate into his barrack, and that inmate brutally beat Axelson while Axelson was in his bed.
Axelson had asked for $15,000, but the commission granted him a $1,000 award. Both Axelson and attorneys for the state appealed the ruling.
Lawmakers agreed that Axelson should receive the $1,000, saying they were convinced that guards didn't follow proper protocol before the attack.
Lawmakers did not receive testimony from any of the prisoners.
Ballinger said it wouldn't be wise to take inmates to the proceedings, calling it "a field trip that costs a lot of money."
Metro on 09/15/2015
Print Headline: Prisoner's lost Reeboks his own fault, legislative panel rules