Legislation to provide financial compensation for those wrongfully convicted, imprisoned

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Steve Bieda (D–Warren) said today that he is pleased that Senate Bill 291, his bill that would compensate people wrongfully imprisoned, is headed to Gov. Rick Snyder’s desk for his signature after it was passed in the House yesterday by a vote of 104-2 and received final passage in the Senate this morning by a vote of 37-0.

 “This bill will help innocent people who were wrongfully convicted begin to restore their lives. No amount of money can restore the time lost, families or careers left behind,” Sen. Bieda said. “Innocent people should not be penalized for mistakes in the justice system. This legislation at least helps them pick up the pieces of their lives.”

Exonerees often face tremendous difficulties returning to the workforce upon release. Their job skills are often outdated, and employers may be suspicious of claims of wrongful conviction. In addition, they don’t receive the same type of reintegration services — such as help with housing, employment or medical care — as parolees, and instead must seek financial compensation from the state through lengthy and complex litigation.

 According to data from the National Registry of Exonerations maintained by the University of Michigan, there are currently 33 individuals who have been exonerated in Michigan and who are eligible for compensation.

Under SB 291, a Wrongful Imprisonment Compensation Fund would be established from which ex-inmates will be able to pursue action for compensation against the state through the Court of Claims if they had been wrongfully convicted and imprisoned for a crime they didn’t commit. For each year of their wrongful incarceration, they would be able to receive $50,000, tax-free — along with attorney fees — issued in a single payment or spread out over a maximum of 10 years.

Limited damages — such as lost wages and actual medical expenses — would also be included on a per year basis.

Sen. Bieda has been working to pass this legislation since the beginning of the current legislative term. Having passed both chambers, the bill now heads to the Governor’s desk for signing.