SAINT PAUL, Minn. – Sen. Ron Latz (DFL – St. Louis Park) and Rep. John Lesch (DFL – Saint Paul) today announced their intention to pass legislation in the 2014 session to compensate people who were exonerated for crimes for which they had been wrongfully convicted and imprisoned.
“While there is no amount of money that can give back the years spent behind bars as a result of a wrongful conviction, the state should at the very least offer some sort of compensation to help them get back on their feet,” said Sen. Latz. “It is time for Minnesota to join the majority of states that are doing the right thing.”
Across the county, 29 states, the District of Columbia, and the federal government all have compensation statutes for the wrongfully imprisoned. Minnesota is one of 21 states that do not. In developing the legislation, Latz and Lesch have worked closely with the Innocence Project of Minnesota, which works to free people imprisoned for crimes they did not commit.
“We are fortunate to have one of the fairest justice systems in the world, but mistakes still can happen. It’s not often that people are convicted for a crime they didn’t commit,” said Rep. Lesch. However, when that rare instance occurs and a person is later exonerated, our system must be humble and attempt to make things right. People who are wrongfully imprisoned deserve to be compensated for these mistakes and helped in their re-entry back into society.”
The legislation would require that people who are wrongfully imprisoned in
Minnesota be assisted in the following ways:
• Monetary compensation awarded at a court’s discretion based on circumstances prior to being imprisoned
• Access to post-release services currently afforded to criminals, including:
-Financial support for basic necessities
-Help finding a job
•Official acknowledgement of a wrongful conviction
In recent Minnesota history, two people have been proven innocent after spending time in prison: Michael Hansen (served six years), and Koua Fong Lee (served almost three years). Both experienced difficulty resuming their former lives after being released from prison. With no money, housing, transportation, health services or insurance, and a criminal record that is rarely cleared despite innocence, the punishment of a wrongful imprisonment lingers long after innocence is proven. Additionally, there are often psychological consequences that stem from being deprived of family, friends, and the ability to build a career.