Today, Kansas Governor Jeff Colyer signed one of the strongest laws in the nation providing state compensation for innocent people who were wrongfully convicted (House Bill 2579). This makes Kansas the 33rd state to enact a wrongful conviction compensation law.
This morning in Kansas City, Governor Colyer held a bill signing ceremony where he was joined by three Kansas exonerees, Floyd Bledsoe, Richard Jones and Lamonte McIntyre, who were instrumental in the passage of this bill. Also present was the Midwest Innocence Project, which represented all three men and advocated for the bill, along with the Innocence Project.
The new law will provide individuals who were wrongfully convicted and exonerated in Kansas with the following:
- $65,000 per year of wrongful imprisonment, and $25,000 per year wrongfully served on parole, probation or the sex offender registry.
- Social services to assist exonerees with short-term and long-term needs including housing and tuition assistance, counseling, participation in the state health care program and financial literacy training.
- A certificate of innocence and expungement of the wrongful conviction from state and federal records to help exonerees clear their names.
- Protections for taxpayers through an offset provision that would require an exoneree who received state compensation and then received a civil award or settlement stemming from the wrongful conviction to reimburse the state for the difference. Conversely, the amount of state compensation owed to an exoneree would be deducted by any civil payment he or she already received.
Lawmakers heard Bledsoe’s, Jones’s and McIntyre’s stories and decided to take action. Kansas State Representatives Blaine Finch (R-Ottawa), John Carmichael (D-Wichita), and Bradley Ralph (R-Dodge City), and Senators David Haley (D-Kansas City), Molly Baumgardner (R-Louisburg) and Rick Wilborn (R-McPherson) were integral in developing and passing the legislation.
“It’s imperative that government follow the same rules we teach our children: when you make a mistake, apologize and make it right. This bill begins to right the wrongs visited on those who have been wrongfully convicted and allows the innocent a chance to rebuild their lives,” said Representative Blaine Finch.
Bledsoe was exonerated in 2015, and McIntyre and Jones were exonerated in 2017. Without a state compensation law in Kansas, the men were left without any financial assistance to rebuild their lives when they were released.
“This is a big step in righting wrongs and helping me start to rebuild my life. It will help to restore some of what was taken from me like my inherited land and my income. Nothing will make up for the loss of my freedom and the pain of missing my two boys growing up, but it is a very good starting point,” said Bledsoe.