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A new look at compensation for wrongful conviction

Few people would ever want to be sent to prison for a crime they didn't commit. Unfortunately, wrongful convictions happen all the time in the United States, including here in California. And as we explained back in January in a piece on wrongful conviction compensation, reimbursement by our state government for time spent in prison can seem mediocre when compared to the rest of the nation.

As a way to continue this important discussion, we wanted to point the attention of our more frequent Pleasanton readers to an exoneration case in New York where the accused was compensated for his wrongful imprisonment. What we'd like our readers to note in this case is the amount of money this state considers to be fair compensation for a wrongful conviction. We’d like our readers to then reconsider the question we raised at the beginning of the year: is California's compensation for wrongful conviction fair?

According to a report by the Insurance Journal, the man in this case had been accused of killing another man despite the fact that he had proof he was nowhere near the crime scene at the time of the murder. He served almost 25 years in prison for the crime before he was finally granted exoneration and $6.25 million in compensation.

As you may remember from our January post, our state only compensates the wrongfully accused "$100 per day spent in prison -- with an annual maximum of $36,500." If we applied these numbers to the case above and imagined that it had happened here in California, then the accused man might have only received a little more than $912,000 here in our state.

As we stressed at the beginning of the year, compensation after a wrongful conviction is incredibly important because it provides an accused person with the financial security they would have had if they hadn't been incarcerated in the first place. But aside from that, some believe that the amount awarded should also reflect an apology for a mistake that may have cost someone a large portion of their life.

So how do you feel about how our state compensates the wrongfully convicted? It's something we'd like all of our readers to consider as it could play a role for you down the road.

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