A report released today by the Innocence Project finds devastating gaps in the support and services that states provide to people exonerated after serving years in prison for crimes they didn’t commit.
Only about 60% of the 245 people exonerated through DNA testing in the United States have been compensated, and the vast majority of them waited years for very small amounts of money and received no support services.
“When people are exonerated, they should find a safety net, not another long legal battle,” Innocence Project Policy Director Stephen Saloom said today in announcing the report. “States have a responsibility to restore innocent people’s lives to the best of their abilities; every single state needs to pass a comprehensive compensation statute without further delay.”
The report examines staggering shortcomings in the monetary compensation and services provided to exonerees after their release.
Some facts from the report:
• 27 states have some form of compensation law on the books, 23 states lack them entirely.
• Compensation laws vary widely across the country, from New Hampshire’s maximum payment of $20,000 regardless of the number of years a person served to the $80,000 per year paid by Texas.
• Only six states meet the federal standard of $50,000 per year.
• 81% of the exonerees who have been compensated were paid less than the federal standard.
• On average, it takes exonerees three years to access compensation funds.