A column in today’s Dallas Morning News by Rev. Gerald Britt, Jr. chronicles the case of Charles Allen Chatman, who was released from a Texas prison in January after serving 27 years for a rape he didn’t commit. Chatman’s “remarkable journey from incarceration to exoneration is an episode in a much larger story of the burden under which poor communities struggle – and how injustice further complicates that struggle,” Britt writes.
Texas has seen more wrongful convictions overturned by DNA testing that any other state. It is also one of 22 states providing some compensation to exonerees. Thanks to an amendment passed last year, the state is among national leaders – providing counseling services, child support payments, and $50,000 per year served ($100,000 if the exonerated person was on death row). Britt writes that all states should fairly compensate the exonerated, and provide services to help them rebuild a stolen life.
Society rightly demands that those who commit crimes owe a debt that must be paid. But where that right has been unjustly or mistakenly demanded, society has an obligation to make immediate and comprehensive restitution. We impose a terrible burden on the falsely imprisoned. And we compound a problem that we already struggle to address: the restoration of the lives of residents to productivity in a time when we don’t have lives to waste.
Read the full column here
. (Dallas Morning News, 03/03/08)
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