Last Wednesday Washington became the 28th state to pass a wrongful conviction compensation law with Gov. Jay Inslee signing a bill that will take effect in July. Under the new law, a wrongfully convicted person would be eligible to file a claim against the state once their conviction is reversed. After a judge or jury determines the claim is valid, the courts can award up to $50,000 for each year of imprisonment, including time spent awaiting trial and an additional $50,000 for each year spent on death row.
Money will come from the new state liability fund, which can also provide education aid and pay past child support for those who qualify. The state estimates that at least 15 wrongly convicted former inmates are likely to file claims in the first three years, with one to two each year thereafter.
The bill, which passes through the Washington state House and Senate with bipartisan and nearly unanimous support, was championed by Representative Tina Orwall and the Innocence Project of Northwest Legislative Advocacy Clinic. We want to congratulate them as well as IPNW Policy Director Lara Zarowsky and her students who worked tirelessly to advocated the passage of the bill even during a year with tight budgets. Way to go “Team Compensate!”
Nationwide, one-third of people exonerated after proving their innocence have not been compensated for the injustices they suffered and the time they spent incarcerated.