Innocent people wrongfully convicted could see additional relief upon their court-ordered release under a bill introduced with bipartisan support at the Capitol. “Right now what happens if you’re exonerated, they open the prison door and out you go, and that’s the last the state really has any contact with you” said Keith Findley, founder and co-director of the Wisconsin Innocence Project. “You’re sort of left to fend for yourself and recreate some semblance of a life again.”
AUDIO: Keith Findley interview (5:20)
Wisconsin’s compensation levels are the lowest in the nation — $5,000 per year with an aggregate cap of $25,000. Compare that to Texas, where the wrongfully convicted are eligible for $80,000 for each year behind bars. “It makes Wisconsin look rather pathetic in comparison,” said Findley. The Wrongly Convicted Reentry Act would increase the maximum compensation an innocent inmate could receive for their false imprisonment to the federal level – $50,000 per year with no aggregate cap, as well as providing for transitional assistance.
“The current best case scenario for wrongly convicted individuals is that their legal appeal works and they earn their immediate freedom, only to be left penniless in a strange city with no place to sleep,” said Representative Garey Bies (R-Sister Bay). Bies is seeking co-sponsors for the proposal along with Representative Mark Pocan (D-Madison) and Senator Spencer Coggs (D-Milwaukee).
READ: Wrongly Convicted Reentry Act (PDF)