Nothing can make up for time lost behind bars for a person who has been wrongfully convicted of a crime. Freedom, the opportunity to spend time with loved ones and the chance to live life as one dreams to cannot be adequately compensated for once taken away. However, Colorado legislators are attempting to bring some measure of financial justice to those who have faced the horror of wrongful imprisonment. Even if monetary recourse can never fully right this wrong, at least it can help to provide some measure of financial security in the individual’s transition between imprisonment and freedom.
Several days ago, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper signed a wrongful conviction compensation bill into law. After wrongfully imprisoned persons go through the process of appealing a conviction and having that conviction overturned, they will then be eligible for up to $70,000 compensation per year of wrongful imprisonment.
The wrongful conviction and imprisonment of one Colorado man helped to inspire passage of the bill. This individual spent more than 10 years behind bars for rape and murder before DNA evidence cleared him of wrongdoing. Too many individuals have suffered stories similar to this one. The new bill will help to right the terrible injustice that these inmates have struggled to overcome.
Under the new law, compensation for wrongful conviction and imprisonment is not automatic. However, the ability to petition for compensation will now be available to former Colorado inmates when previously no assistance or recourse was available. It may not be a perfect solution to the issue of wrongful convictions, but it is a more just response to the situation than mere release.
Source: Los Angeles Times, “Colorado governor signs law to compensate exonerated convicts,” Molly Hennessy-Fiske, June 5, 2013