The Kansas legislature just passed a law to compensate people imprisoned for wrongful convictions $65,000 for each year they served.
The bill is now on Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer’s desk for approval and final signature.
Under the bill, people who have been behind bars wrongfully will be paid $65,000 for each year and people who wrongfully served on parole, probation or the sex offender registry will also get $25,000 for each year.
A person who claims for the restitution can also name beneficiaries who can receive payments on their behalf. The first part of the payment will be 25 percent of the entire amount and the rest will come in annual payment of $80,000 until the payment is cleared.
Along with payments, the bill also provides non-monetary benefits which include roughly one year’s state health care and tuition assistance for post-secondary education in the state. That is not all; in an attempt to rebuild their lives, the bill will also provide these people with a certificate to clear their names.
People who are released from custody before July have until July 2020 to make a restitution claim. Once the bill is signed, the state will become the 33rd state to enact a wrongful conviction compensation law.
“The state today has taken a step in saying ‘we recognize the horror, the waking nightmare’ and that we will compensate these exonerees. It’s a proud day,” state Sen. David Haley (D) said.
The announcement of the bill was of great significance for Floyd Bledsoe, Richard Jones and Lamonte McIntyre — each was wrongfully convicted, served many years in prison was didn't received any financial assistance or compensation.
Bledsoe served 16 years behind bars after being wrongfully convicted of first-degree murder. Jones served nearly 17 years for a wrongful robbery conviction. McIntyre spent 23 years of his life in prison and was imprisoned for a double murder he didn’t commit.
When all of these men were released from prison, they had lost everything, had no money and no steady income to rely on.
“The misconception is that a bill like this passes, now you're an instant millionaire. It just means they pay you in a way you could have been making a living for the last 20-something years. That's how they try to make it right,” said McIntyre.
He further said he is relieved and happy with the passage of the bill but said it can’t compare to losing years of freedom.
“I think everybody should always put themselves in a situation where they at least try to understand from a different perspective: How would I feel if someone gave me $1 million for 23 years of my life? How could you replace that? It's not about money or monetary gain. Time and life are the most valuable things I have. So for the most valuable thing I have, you give me $1 million? A billionaire in that position would give a billion dollars just to be free. Anybody would,” he added.
Although money isn't adequate compensation for all these exonerees whose precious years were unjustly taken away from them, it may help them move forward in their lives.
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