Anthony Ray Hinton was recently exonerated after 30 years behind bars in Alabama. His case, and others like it, have made the broken parts of our criminal justice system quite apparent. CBS’s 60 Minutes recently focused on compensation, or lack there of, for the wrongly convicted in our country.
According the Innocence Project, a national organization that works to exonerate the wrongly convicted through DNA testing and criminal justice system reform, only 30 states and Washington D.C. provide some kind of compensation for the wrongly convicted. However, just because states provide some kind of compensation does not mean it is enough. In Hinton’s state of Alabama, which does have compensation legislation, he received nothing. Since many states have poor or nonexistent compensation laws, many exonerees are homeless after being released. Exonerees are given less support than those out on parole. According to 60 Minutes people out on parole in Alabama are eligible for job training, housing assistance, and a bus ticket home. Exonerees like Hinton are not eligible for those services.
In response to this problem, Bryan Stevenson of the Equal Justice Initiative stated that exonerees “need support, they need economic support, they need housing support, they need medical support, they need mental health care. They need to know that their victimization, their abuse has been taken seriously.”
Here in Wisconsin, wrongly convicted individuals can receive up to $25,000 in compensation. On December 24, 2015 Andrew Beckett of the Wisconsin Radio Network reported that there are efforts in process to raise that number to $1 million. State representative Dale Kooyenga (R – Brookfield) co-sponsored the bill saying that it will help the wrongly convicted individuals restore their lives The proposed bill would also provide exonerees health care, job training, and affordable housing. Previous efforts to increase compensation limits in Wisconsin have failed to pass in the Legislature.
To watch the 60 Minutes episode about compensation for the wrongly convicted click here.
To read the Innocence Project fact sheet about compensation for the wrongly convicted click here.
To read “Wisconsin lawmakers push to raise restitution for wrongful convictions” from the Wisconsin Radio Network click here.