The Long Road From Exoneration to Compensation


The Long Road From Exoneration to Compensation

North Carolina exoneree Glen Edward Chapman served 15 years on death row for crimes that he didn’t commit, yet he has received nothing from the state. A new article featured on

discusses Chapman’s experience and what it reveals about the arduous road the wrongfully convicted must travel from exoneration to compensation. Salon reports:

Chapman was not notified he was going to be released until the day he was freed. On April 2, 2008, a guard told him to “Pack up” and 10 minutes later he was out the door.  No one asked if he had a ride or a place to stay.

Citing the Innocence Project’s 2009 report

“Making up for Lost Time,”

the article reveals that about 40% of people exonerated by DNA evidence have not received any compensation and lack the assistance needed to rebuild their lives. 

Statutes providing some form of compensation for the wrongfully convicted are in place in 27 states plus Washington, D.C., but many of these laws provide insufficient financial assistance and no social services, such as health coverage, counseling, tuition waivers and more. In several states, exonerees have no choice but to attempt to sue the state if they want to be compensated. In others, the legislature will consider a “private bill” to compensate one individual, rather than creating a policy for compensation any time someone is exonerated.

According to North Carolina’s compensation law, Chapman and other exonerees are eligible to receive $50,000 for each year of wrongful imprisonment, which caps out at $750,000 but only on the condition of a pardon of innocence by the governor. Chapman filed a pardon request in 2009 but the governor has so far not made a decision on the pardon.  Chapman’s court-appointed investigator, Pamela Laughon, stepped in where the state fell short, helping Chapman with his expenses and job interviews.

Laughon argues that states should provide a “life coach” to do for the exonerated what she did for Chapman, which she describes as “somebody that’s going to navigate all the many day-to-day things like managing a bank account, how paychecks will be taxed, and the other kinds of life skills you and I do second nature.” She believes her experience with Chapman serves as a successful case study of the “life coach” approach.

At the very least, every state should provide immediate re-entry funds and access to critical social services. 

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for the wrongfully convicted. 


National View: 27 States Have Compensation Statutes:

Is Yours One


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