A proposed bill that would require Washington to compensate the wrongfully convicted for every year they served in prison is being considered by the state’s legislature.
For the third time in as many years, Rep. Tina Orwall, D-Des Moines, is sponsoring a bill that would compensate exonerees who prove intentional misconduct by state officials $50,000 for each year spent behind bars, an additional $50,000 for each year spent on death row and $25,000 for each year spent on parole or as a registered sex offender.
If passed, House Bill 1341 would benefit Alan Northrop who spent 17 years in prison for a rape he did not commit before being cleared by DNA evidence. He had missed out on watching his three children grow up. When he was finally proven innocent and released, Northrop was immediately straddled with about $50,000 worth of child support. The
Now 48, Northrop was exonerated and his record cleared. However, the effects of his imprisonment were harder to erase.
“Just trying to make a decision,” he said. “A simple decision. I’m not used to that. In there, you don’t have to worry about it.”
Before he was convicted, Northrop was a logger and owned his own excavation business on the side. He now makes $11 an hour at an auto-glass repair shop, a job he secured through a friend.
House Bill 1341 would nearly match the federal compensation standard which entitles wrongfully convicted inmates to up to $50,000 per year they served in federal prison and $100,000 for each year spent on death row. The bill failed in previous sessions because of a sizable budget gap, but with a lower deficit, both Republicans and Democrats have signed on this year. If it passes, Washington could become the 28th state to have a compensation statute, though the award amounts vary greatly.
More about House Bill 1341
about Northrop’s case