Opinion Blog: Wrongful Convictions are State’s Responsibility

May 11, 2011 by · 1 Comment 

posted by Nicolle Keogh
nkeogh@smu.edu

What could be more wrong than sentencing an innocent person to jail –or death row for the matter? If the idea of being locked up and awaiting your execution date as an innocent person doesn’t make you sick enough, then good luck wrapping your head around this: many of these exonerated convicts are denied compensation for their time behind bars.

In the last decade, the number of exonerations has skyrocketed, mostly due to advances in DNA testing, which has exonerated 203 people n the last decade. Though this should be exhilarating news, the fact is that many states claim they cannot meet the budget for compensating the rapid increase of the wrongfully incarcerated.

Twenty-seven states offer financial compensation to exonerated convicts, there’s no excuse why the 23 other states aren’t following suit. I understand that each state has a different budget. However I think this issue should be a priority in every state, especially when most wrongful convictions are based on faulty eyewitness testimony.

Even the states that do compensate for wrongful convictions are insufficient.

So here’s my proposal: individual states that have lotteries either donate the government’s portion of lottery money to the compensation of the wrongfully accused, or create a new lottery for that specific purpose. A lot of publicity and marketing would have to go into this scheme in order to prompt people to buy their tickets, but I think many would be enthusiastic about purchasing a ticket for this cause.

How can anyone say it’s not in the state’s budget to financially compensate people who have been wrongfully convicted and sentenced to years in prison? It’s going to take a little creativity to find a way to scrounge up some extra money, but allowing this to go on any longer is inhumane and simply unacceptable.