UPDATED: Legislature passes bill compensating wrongfully convicted

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Photo credit: Americasroof

A bill compensating the wrongfully convicted cleared the Kansas Legislature on Thursday, culminating a two-year effort to make good on past wrongs.

The House joined the Senate on Thursday when it unanimously approved the bill and sent it to the governor to sign.

The bill sets compensation at $65,000 for each year someone wrongfully spends in jail and no less than $25,000 for each year they spent on parole or post-release supervision.

“This bill is a bill that not only the Senate but the House can be proud,” said Republican state Sen. Molly Baumgardner who worked with Democratic state Sen. David Haley to get the legislation passed.

David Haley

Haley called the bill a “high water mark for the state of Kansas.”

“Though a long time in coming, I join in the pride we should all share in its unanimous passage,” Haley said.

Kansas is one of 18 states that don’t compensate innocent people sent to jail.

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. Here’s a complete rundown compiled by Connecticut’s Legislative Research Office.

While the Kansas Legislature has been working on the issue for a couple years, the issue gained heightened attention last fall when Lamonte McIntyre was released in Wyandotte County after spending 23 years in prison for a double murder he didn’t commit.

McIntyre was among several people who had been wrongfully convicted who testified on behalf of the compensation bill earlier this legislative session.

Baumgardner said she was moved by their testimony in that they were less concerned about seeking compensation for themselves than about ensuring that no one else suffers like they did again.

The bill requires someone who believes they were wrongfully convicted to file a lawsuit challenging their conviction. They would be entitled to damages if they show by the preponderance of the evidence that they were wrongfully convicted.

Other benefits that would be made available include:

  • Tuition and fees would be waived for attending a postsecondary educational institution in Kansas for up to 130 credit hours.
  • Enrollment in Kansas’ health care benefits program at state expense.
  • A court could award non-monetary relief such as counseling, housing assistance and personal financial literacy assistance.

The legislation is expected to cost the state about $3.6 million with the two wrongful conviction cases pending before the court.