The majority of people exonerated after proving their innocence have not been compensated for the injustice they suffered and the time they spent incarcerated.
Statutes providing for some form of compensation for the wrongly convicted are in place in 27 states plus Washington, D.C., but even some of these laws don’t meet society’s moral obligation to help exonerated people recover from the injustice they suffered and the years of freedom they lost.
The Innocence Project is intimately familiar with the tremendous pain and challenges exonerated people encounter after release, and has developed a series of recommendations for states to compensate the wrongly convicted.
The moral and legal obligation to provide compensation
With no money, housing, transportation, health services or insurance, and a criminal record that is rarely cleared despite innocence, the punishment lingers long after an innocent person is exonerated. States have a responsibility to restore innocent people’s lives to the best of their abilities.
The Innocence Project recommends that all states:
Compensate exonerated people immediately after release with a fixed sum or a range of recovery for each year of wrongful incarceration.
Congress and President Bush have recommended that this amount be set at $50,000 per year of wrongful incarceration.
Provide immediate re-entry funds and access to job training, educational, health and legal services after an innocent person’s release.
Read the full recommendations from the Innocence Project on compensation.
A safety net, not another battle
In several states, inmates must file civil lawsuits in order to be compensated. In others, the legislature will consider a “private bill” to compensate one individual, rather than creating a policy for compensation any time someone is proven innocent.
When people are exonerated, they should find a safety net, not another long legal or political battle. All 50 states should pass comprehensive compensation statutes. The Innocence Project works with lawmakers, prosecutors, defense attorneys, crime victims and exonerated people to create better compensation laws nationwide.