Public Act 343 to provide financial compensation for those wrongfully convicted, imprisoned

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Steve Bieda (D–Warren) said that he is pleased that Senate Bill 291, his bill that would compensate people wrongfully imprisoned, was signed into law today as Public Act 343 by Gov. Rick Snyder.

“P.A. 343 will help innocent people who were wrongfully convicted begin to restore their lives, and I’m most appreciative that the governor has signed it into law,” Sen. Bieda said. “The innocent and wrongly convicted should not be penalized for mistakes in the justice system. I hope this new law at least helps them pick up the pieces to try a fresh start that they deserve.”

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 Their job skills are often outdated, and employers may be suspicious of claims of wrongful conviction.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.

P.A. 343 will establish a Wrongful Imprisonment Compensation Fund that will allow ex-inmates to pursue action for compensation — 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 will 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, will also be included on a per year basis.

The legislation easily passed in the House earlier this month on Dec. 7, by a vote of 104-2, and received final passage in the Senate on Dec. 8, by a vote of 37-0.