State Could Compensate Exonerated Inmates

Alan Northrop spent 17 years in prison for a rape he didn’t commit. When he was finally exonerated, he received no compensation from Washington state.

Instead, he got a six-figure child-support bill.

Rep. Tina Orwall says the episode illustrates a failure on the part of the state. She’s planning to introduce legislation this week that would recompense wrongfully convicted inmates for their time behind bars, bringing Washington into line with more than half of U.S. states and the federal government.

It calls for giving former inmates found to be actually innocent $50,000 per year in prison, plus $50,000 more for every year spent on death row and $25,000 for every year on community supervision or as a registered sex offender. Other tenets could include providing health care and paying child support obligations incurred by prisoners during their incarceration.

But because of Washington’s dire financial situation – lawmakers are trying to fill a $4.6 billion budget gap – Orwall’s bill wouldn’t allow exonerated inmates to start collecting until 2014.