A recent guest column in
written by Dallas-based freelance writer Joyce King called for more compensation for the nation’s wrongly convicted. King, who grew up in Louisiana, was raised with an awareness of the nearby notorious Angola state penitentiary and the notion that anyone who survived a sentence there was “beyond tough.” Years later she now thinks about former Louisiana inmate Glenn Ford, who was exonerated and freed from prison just two weeks ago. He served three decades on death row for a murder he did not commit. King writes: “While I’m thrilled to see another innocent man freed, I don’t understand why some states do not meet the basic federal standard — $50,000 of compensation for every year of wrongful incarceration — after people are proved innocent of crimes that shattered their lives.”
Although Louisiana is among the 29 states, plus Washington, D.C., that has a compensation statute, it falls below the federal standard, providing for $25,000 per year with a cap of $250,000.
King writes: “Not only is it an insult to cap Ford’s compensation, he will have to pay state taxes on the money and may have legal fees. Some states require an exoneree to apply for a full pardon from the governor, which can take longer than a year, before he or she is eligible for compensation.”About one-third of the people exonerated after proving their innocence have not been compensated for the injustice they suffered and the time they spent incarcerated. In several states, inmates must file civil lawsuits in order 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 proven innocent. King points out that paroled guilty offenders are entitled to more services than exonerees when released, including job training, housing and counseling.
The first non-attorney to serve on the Innocence Project of Texas’ board of directors, , King was part of the team that lobbied for legislation that became the Tim Cole Act. Passed in 2009, the act has made Texas the most generous in the nation by increasing the compensation from $50,000 to $80,000 per year wrongly imprisoned. King says that other states should follow Texas’ lead when it comes to compensating the wrongly convicted.
“Ford is among more than 130 people released from death row since 1973 after new evidence, a fact that should remind us that no amount of money can give a man his life back,” says King.
and see if your
has a compensation statute.