In the majority of cases, the exonerated receive no compensation for the years they lose to wrongful imprisonment. Twenty-three states have no laws that provide compensation for the wrongfully convicted. In the remaining jurisdictions, compensation laws for the most part provide only a modest monetary compensation, no social services, and erect procedural barriers that few exonerated people are able to maneuver.
The other alternative for the wrongfully convicted seeking monetary compensation is civil litigation. Because police and prosecutors are in most instances granted immunity from civil suits by the wrongfully convicted, few exonerees have viable claims against those involved in their conviction.
The host of legal problems exonerees face often get in the way of rebuilding a life on the outside. Even after they are released on the grounds of innocence, there is no automatic expungement of the wrongful conviction from the exoneree’s criminal record. As a result, exonerees applying for jobs or housing are often disqualified after a background check reveals their past conviction.
A LAEP survey of exonerees nationwide showed that nearly all emerge from prison with no assets, especially since many having spent their life savings (and that of their family) on the legal battle to win their freedom. A third of those wrongfuly convicted lose custody of a child during (and because of) their incarceration. As a result, many exonerees need on-going legal assistance with matters such as bankruptcy and child custody.