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Making Up for Mistakes

Monday, April 28, 2008; A09

Twenty-two states and the District offer some form of compensation to exonerated former prisoners. The packages vary widely:

District of Columbia: Any person who has been pardoned or had a conviction overturned on the grounds of innocence after 1979 can be eligible for compensation. No maximum amount is specified, but the claimant must provide clear and convincing proof of innocence and cannot have pleaded guilty.

Maryland: The Board of Public Works determines compensation packages for pardoned persons whose convictions were in error, and may grant a reasonable amount for financial or other appropriate counseling for the individuals.

Virginia: If a conviction has been vacated, a wrongfully convicted person is entitled to 90 percent of the Virginia per-capita personal income for each year of incarceration, up to 20 years, as well as a tuition award worth $10,000 in the Virginia Community College System. But claimants may not have pleaded guilty, unless they were charged with a capital offense.

Massachusetts: A wrongfully convicted person shall receive a maximum of $500,000, as well as the potential for physical and emotional services, educational services at any state or community college, and expungement of the record of conviction. Any person is eligible within two years of exoneration as long as he or she did not plead guilty (unless such a plea was withdrawn, vacated or nullified).

Texas: A wrongfully convicted person is entitled to $50,000 per year of wrongful incarceration (or $100,000 per year if that person was sentenced to death), compensation for child-support payments and one year of counseling.

Wisconsin: A wrongfully convicted person "who did not by his or her act or failure to act contribute to bring about the conviction and imprisonment for which he or she seeks compensation" can receive a maximum of $25,000, including attorney's fees. The Claims Board may petition the legislature for additional funds.

Montana: Wrongfully convicted persons exonerated through post-conviction DNA testing are provided with educational aid.

SOURCE: Innocence Project

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