Nebraska State Senator Ernie Chambers this week on called on lawmakers to consider passing a law compensating the wrongfully convicted after their release. Chambers told the Omaha World-Herald this week:
“It’s an issue of fairness, when the state wrongfully jails someone, it should compensate that person for the loss of their freedom. Simple justice would indicate that something ought to be done for someone who’s gone through this.”
Chambers is leaving office at the end of this year, but he said he would ask another Senator to introduce legislation in 2009 to address compensation. Lawmakers in Nebraska would have to consider issues such as who qualifies as exonerated, how much compensation is fair, and what process needs to be done to obtain it. Chambers’ proposal comes on the heels of the release of Thomas Winslow and Joseph White, who were cleared by DNA testing last month. They were the first defendants in Nebraska history freed due to DNA testing, but their exonerations aren’t yet official.
Compensation statutes exist in 25 states, as well as in the District of Columbia. In 2004, Congress passed a law granting exonerated federal prisoners up to $50,000 a year in compensation (and up to $100,000 per year for those who were on death row). This federal legislation urges states to follow suit. The recent trend in compensation statutes is to also provide the immediate assistance and services that the wrongfully convicted need and deserve to seek to successfully resume their lives.
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. (Omaha World Herald, 11/04/08)
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