Nebraska lawmakers today voted to grant preliminary approval to a bill that would compensate wrongfully convicted people upon their release and provide them with state services to help them rebuild their lives. The bill, introduced by State Sen. Kent Rogert, will provide at least $25,000 for each year a person spends in prison for a crime he or she didn’t commit.
The state’s unicameral legislature voted 37-6 to give first-round approval to the bill. It will come up for debate twice more before being sent to the governor for his signature.
In February, three recent Nebraska exonerees gave emotional testimony before lawmakers on the years they had lost for a crime they didn’t commit. Six people – known as the “Beatrice Six” – were cleared of murder last year of a 1985 murder in Beatice, Nebraska. They were the first DNA exonerees in Nebraska history.
Joseph White, who served nearly two decades before his exoneration last year, spoke about the one-year-old son he left behind when he was wrongfully imprisoned in 1989.
“I can’t get back the time with him,” (White) said, holding up a photo of his son as a baby and another of him today at 21. “I can’t go back and teach my boy to ride a bicycle or drive a car.”
Innocence Project Policy Analyst Rebecca Brown also spoke, describing for lawmakers how policies in other states around the country have helped exonerees create new lives after release.
Read more about today’s vote here
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