Thursday, March 1, 2012--5:35p.m.
MADISON--Being convicted of a crime you didn't commit, and then spending years behind bars as a result, is a nightmare scenario for pretty much anyone. But now some are trying to give extra support to those wrongly convicted.
Right now, those exonerated for a wrongful conviction can receive compensation for the time they spent imprisoned. But it's capped at $5,000 a year--maxing out at $25,000 total.
But a bill now before state legislators would raise the rate to $50,000 a year--with no overall cap.
One supporter, Chris Ochoa, was himself wrongly convicted--in Texas. The Wisconsin Innocence Project helped get him exonerated and he came to U-W Madison for law school. He said the support can help exonerees become productive members of society. "You took somebody's freedom, somebody's freedom and that 50,000 goes a long way to establish an exoneree to get his independence, to not be dependent on society forever," said Ochoa, who spent 12 years in prison for a crime he didn't commit.
"The sad reality is in Wisconsin right now, that if you're actually guilty of a crime and released on parole or extended supervision, you get more support from the state than if you're actually innocent," said Keith Findley, the co-director of the Wisconsin Innocence Project. "If you're innocent, they just open up the prison doors and say 'have a good life'." Findley said the bill would also provide a range of social services: everything from housing and employment assistance to health care.
Findley said the project has exonerated about 14 people during the last 13 or 14 years.
Viewers with disabilities can get assistance accessing this station's FCC Public Inspection File by contacting the station with the information listed below. Questions or concerns relating to the accessibility of the FCC's online public file system should be directed to the FCC at 888-225-5322, 888-835-5322 (TTY), or firstname.lastname@example.org.