After spending 17 years behind bars for a crime he didn’t commit, Alan Northrop, of Washington State was released with nothing but the money he had earned from his prison job and no support from the state. The Innocence Project Northwest assisted Northrop in proving his innocence with DNA testing in 2010.
About one-third of the people exonerated after proving their innocence have not been compensated for the injustice they suffered and the time they spent incarcerated. In Washington there is no law to provide compensation—monetary or otherwise—to the wrongfully convicted.
Statutes providing for some form of compensation for the wrongly convicted are in place in 27 states plus Washington, D.C., but many of these laws are wildly inadequate.
The Innocence Project calls for all states to pass laws providing at a minimum the same compensation that the federal government offers for federal crimes: $50,000 per year of wrongful incarceration with an additional $50,000 for each year spent on death row.
Money would give Northrop a chance to “just get started over again and have a normal life again,” he said. He works full-time but lives in a small room in a friend’s house because he can’t afford his own apartment.
“It’s not all about the money,” Northrop said. “It’s about possible counseling for certain individuals. … People have no idea what effect stress has on a person in there. … What that does to a mindset is just devastating. Terrible.”
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.
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27 States Have Compensation Statutes: Is Yours One?
Read the Executive Summary from “
Making up for Lost Time: What the Wrongfully Convicted Endure and How to Provide Fair Compensation