An editorial in today’s Houston Chronicle questions the lack of state services for the 29 people who have been wrongfully convicted in Texas and proven innocent through DNA testing. Although Texas provides a more generous compensation statute than many other states—thanks to the recent passage of a bill sponsored by Senator Rodney Ellis, raising the standard to $50,000 per year of wrongful incarceration—it still fails to provide for the career, educational, psychological and health care needs of exonerees after their release. Innocence Project client Ronald Taylor, the latest Texan to be proven innocent, is eligible for the state funds but not until he receives a full pardon from the governor, and even then he may wait years before the funds are dispensed. In the absence of state support, the Innocence Project seeks to meet the immediate needs of the wrongfully convicted.
The Innocence Project also has a special exoneree fund that provides counseling when other sources are absent. As Chronicle writer Roma Khanna's recent story showed, even exonerees like Taylor — who was buoyed during years in prison by his fiancée — face dizzying emotional challenges. How to rebuild a relationship interrupted by years of separation? How to overcome grief and rage for all the wasted time? How to stave off depression, anxiety and paranoia, all aggravated by a life in prison?
Simply having been in prison, even wrongly, creates a stigma that can make job-hunting daunting. Add to this the reality that many exonerees went into their sentences with limited education or skills, and the prospects for finding work unaided can be bleak.
Read the full editorial
. (Houston Chronicle, 12/12/07)
Twenty-eight states offer no compensation, and only six state compensation laws include provisions for additional services, including education, counseling and job training. To find out more about compensation laws click
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