New Ind. law gives $50K each year wrongfully convicted inmates spend time in prison

The law provides compensation to individuals sentenced to prison who are later exonerated through DNA testing or other evidence


Dan Carden
The Times, Munster, Ind.

INDIANAPOLIS — An innocent person wrongfully convicted of a crime in Indiana, and forced to serve time behind bars, is entitled to compensation to try to make up for the years of freedom lost, birthdays missed and other life experiences foregone.

Gov. Eric Holcomb has signed into law House Enrolled Act 1150, making Indiana the 34th state to enact a compensation provision for individuals sentenced to prison who later are exonerated through DNA testing or other evidence.

The new statute permits a wrongfully incarcerated person to receive $50,000 for each year the person spent in the Indiana Department of Correction or a county jail for a conviction that was vacated due to actual innocence of the crime for which he or she was convicted.

As a condition of receiving payment, the individual must drop any pending lawsuit or agree to never sue any current or former state or local official or employee in connection with any role they played in securing the wrongful conviction.

Applications for restitution can be submitted to the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute starting Nov. 1. Under the law, awards will be distributed over a five-year period, and only can be paid to a living exoneree.

Past exonerees have until Nov. 1, 2021, to file a claim. The nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency estimates that up to 25 individuals, who wrongfully served a total of 279 total years in prison, are eligible, at a potential cost to the state of $13.95 million.

Future exonerees must request restitution within two years of a conviction being reversed, or after their receipt of a governor's pardon.

The law also provides that individuals released from prison following a wrongful conviction are entitled to participate in the mental health, substance abuse and transition programs available to all inmates who complete their sentences at the Department of Correction.

Roosevelt Glenn, of Gary, who spent 17 years in prison for a Hammond rape that DNA testing later showed he did not commit, was among those advocating for an exoneree compensation law.

"At the time of my wrongful conviction I was a steelworker and a family man," Glenn said. "It means a lot that Rep. Steuerwald and Sen. Young fought for this law to acknowledge the injustice I went through and try to right the wrong that was done."

The new law was sponsored by state Rep. Greg Steuerwald, R-Avon, and state Sen. Mike Young, R-Indianapolis. Its cosponsors included state Sens. Lonnie Randolph, D-East Chicago, and Karen Tallian, D-Ogden Dunes.

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©2019 The Times (Munster, Ind.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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