House, Senate offer different approaches for compensating wrongly convicted

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Photo credit: Kansas Department of Corrections

Efforts to make good to anyone wrongfully convicted gained momentum in the Kansas House on Thursday when the chamber approved bill compensating anyone unjustly sent to prison.

The House voted 116-1 to approve a bill that would give someone wrongfully convicted $80,000 for each year they spent in prison and not less than $25,000 for each year they were on parole. 

The state also would give someone wrongfully convicted nonmonetary compensation, such as vocational training, tuition assistance, counseling, housing assistance and health insurance coverage.

The bill could cost an estimated $4.2 million for two pending wrongful conviction claims. The compensation includes $3.2 million for the $80,000 a year and $1 million in legal fees, nonmonetary damages and other unknown cases that might emerge.

The Senate also is working on a similar bill, although that chamber has proposed awarding $50,000 for each year someone is wrongfully imprisoned.

Senators said the $50,000 compensation is commensurate with what’s available at the federal level.

Kansas currently doesn’t offer any compensation to someone wrongfully convicted.

In contrast, Texas awards $80,000 per year for wrongful incarceration, while Colorado awards $70,000 and California provides $51,100.

Illinois can offer a maximum of $199,150 total, and Vermont can reach $60,000 per year, according to the Innocence Project.