"Rebuilding the Lives of the Wrongfully Convicted"

Advocacy

In the majority of cases, the exonerated receive no compensation for the years lost to wrongful imprisonment. The Life After Exoneration Program believes that innocent men and women who have been locked up for crimes they did not commit have had their rights violated. Stripped of their liberties and punished by years of confinement in America’s harsh and dangerous prison system, the exonerated are victims of crimes they did not commit. An opportunity to redress these injustices through monetary compensation should be available to all wrongfully convicted people who can prove their innocence.

Statutory compensation, which is state or federal legislation mandating monetary awards to qualifying exonerees, is the best means by which to ensure that the wrongfully convicted are provided timely, reasonable, and equitable monetary compensation by the government for their ordeal. Since 2003, the Life After Exoneration Program has been advocating for the adoption of effective compensation statutes by states and the federal government. Today, 25 states have compensation statutes, but many of them are inadequate, offering meager awards or disqualifying exonerees who were innocent.

The only alternatives to statutory compensation are civil suits and individualized legislative bills. Despite assumptions to the contrary, few exonerees sue the authorities involved in their case, such as police officers, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and forensics personnel. Civil suits against authorities for mishandling cases are costly and invariably long, drawn out affairs. Large jury awards or expensive state settlements have been achieved by some exonerees, but they are the exception; not all exonerees have this option available. Sometimes there is no individual or no entity at fault in a wrongful conviction case. Other times the statue of limitations runs out before an exoneree can file a claim or a judge dismisses their claims on legal grounds. Several states with compensation legislation require exonerees to waive their rights to file suit against authorities involved in their case. The Life After Exoneration Program supports the right of exonerees to file civil suits regarding their case and objects to compensation statutes that prohibit exonerees from litigation. But civil actions are no substitute for state and federal laws entitling exonerees to monetary compensation.