It’s only fair, although no amount of money can make up for years of lost freedom.
Gov. Tom Wolf unveiled his 2021-2022 budget plan last week with many talking points. Tucked away in his plan is a proposal to pay $50,000 to those wrongly convicted of a crime for each year they spent behind bars.
Pennsylvania is currently just one of 15 states that do not provide any financial justice to the victims of wrongful convictions. Others provide at least $50,000 per year. A national average of nine years in prison before being proven innocent would equate to $450,000 in compensation. Societal punishment and trouble finding work are two factors in the need for these payments.
In the proposal, Wolf points out that Pennsylvania exonerees actually spend an average of 14 years in prison. Exonerees often have little access to money, housing, transportation, health services, or insurance, the budget reads.
According to a study by the National Registry of Exonerations, innocent African Americans are about seven times more like to be convicted than innocent white people.
The proposal is part of Wolf’s “Keeping Pennsylvanians Safe through Criminal Justice Reforms” that includes providing fair funding for police coverage, probation reform and the “Clean Slate” legislation among other items.