A U.S. magistrate has been asked to require the Department of Corrections to provide legal assistance to inmates in civil matters.

Brian Barnard, who is representing six inmates in a federal suit against the Department of Corrections, asked Magistrate Ronald Boyce to require Corrections Director Gary DeLand to bolster legal assistance to inmates.A legislative audit report last spring said Corrections was meeting mandated minimum guidelines but should consider beefing up legal aid. However, on July 1, the department let a new legal contract reducing legal assistance offered to inmates.

The contract was reduced from $98,000 to $60,000 and specified inmates were entitled to assistance on actions of habeas corpus and conditions of confinement only. Assistance no longer is provided on civil matters.

Barnard said DeLand was "thumbing his nose" at Auditor General Wayne Welsh when he cut the legal contract following the audit report.

Inspector General Nick Morgan said Wednesday that the director was not thumbing his nose at the auditor general but was tailoring the contract to not exceed constitutionally guaranteed legal assistance.

"Quite the contrary, what we did was take note of what was required to be provided by case law and statute and proceed to provide those services," Morgan said.