Monday, November 26, 2007

Wrongful Conviction Reimbursment Proposal

There is a proposal being floated to reimburse wrongfully convicted prisoners 40,000 dollars for each year they were wrongfully imprisoned, and an additional 30,000 dollars if the individual was on death row. One of the positive features that is being touted about this bill is it will avoid multi-million dollar lawsuits from those who are wrongfully convicted.

This proposal is flawed to say the least.

First -- The attempt to value the loss of reputation, time, and freedom at a mere 40,000-70,000 dollars a year is offensive. That proposal is like a restaurant, that through poor sanitation and hygiene of employees, results in a food poisoning case that kills someone trying to settle damages with a lifetime pass for free food at any of the offending restaurants.

Second -- In many cases, wrongful convictions are the result of poor or rushed police work. This type of malfeasance by law enforcement causes irreparable damage to a person. Limiting the rights to seek damages, and limiting the compensation that these people can receive is unfair to say the least.

If we are trying to set some sort of opportunity cost benchmark of what wrongfully convicted individual could have made on the outside we need to be a little more optimistic. I have a client who was let out of prison three years ago, and he has made over a 100,000 dollars a year since his release. I don't think it is too much to expect that individuals who are robbed of freedom should be compensated a little more handsomely than average, especially those who are wrongfully put on death row.

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