LANSING (WWJ) – Those who have been wrongfully convicted will now get money from the state under a new law that the governor will sign Tuesday, but some say the price for a year of lost freedom just isn’t high enough.
Under a law that was passed almost unanimously last year by the legislature, the state will pay ex-inmates $50,000 tax-free, for each year of their wrongful incarceration, along with attorney fees. Checks could be issued in a single payment or be spread over a maximum of 10 years.
Attorney Valerie Newman, who works for the Innocence Project and has fought for the wrongfully convicted, thinks the law doesn’t go far enough.
“No, of course not,” Newman told WWJ’s Charlie Langton. “There is no amount of money that can compensate people whose lives have been taken from them.”
Thirty other states provide the wrongfully convicted with financial support, Texas for example pays ex-inmates $80,000 a year, while other states provide services such as job assistance — something Michigan does not offer.
Newman said many people will not give the wrongfully incarcerated a second chance.
“Some people still have that feeling like ‘Oh, I just don’t believe the justice system could make that big of a mistake,'” she said.
Since 1991, there have been 66 exonerations in the state. Thirty-three of those qualify for compensation under the new law.