Exoneree’s Struggle Illustrates Need for Compensation Bill in Pennsylvania
Lewis “Jim” Fogle was exonerated and released last year after 34 years in prison when DNA testing proved he was not the perpetrator of the crime for which he was sentenced to life without parole. According to the
, he is the longest serving exoneree in Pennsylvania and the fourth longest serving in the country. He spent more than half his life in prison based on the fabricated testimonies of jailhouse informants.
Since Pennsylvania is one of 20 states without a wrongful conviction compensation statute, Fogle will not receive money or assistance from the state in order to rebuild his life. As an exoneree, Fogle is not even eligible for the benefits Pennsylvania provides to inmates upon completion of their sentences in order to ease their transition from prison back into society.
“It’s weird as heck,” Fogle told the
. “They have halfway houses for people who committed a crime but don’t have a dang thing for people who didn’t commit a crime. They just threw me out here and expected me to survive. . . . I’m just existing, one day at a time.”
According to the
, Marissa Bluestine, legal director of the Pennsylvania Innocence Project, “plans to have a bill introduced this legislative term calling for compensation and re-entry awards for exonerees.” Fogle and other exonerees will testify in support of the bill at legislative hearings across the state.
“Regardless of fault, the government has a responsibility to do all they can to make a wrongfully convicted person whole, or as whole as they can be in light of the Kafkaesque nightmare of being convicted and incarcerated,” Innocence Project Policy Director Rebecca Brown told the
. “No amount of money can make up for the time spent behind bars wrongfully. However, there are things the government can do to enable someone to have a successful life. Many would argue, the government cannot be forgiven for doing nothing.”
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