Uneven Compensation Leaves the Exonerated in Limbo


As of today, 240 people have been exonerated by DNA testing in 34 states. They come from all walks of life and their experiences after exoneration are as diverse as they are. But they all share a common experience – they served years in prison for crimes they didn’t commit. Rebuilding a life after exoneration is not easy, and the level of support offered to the exonerated varies greatly from state to state – and even sometimes within states.

Twenty-seven states offer some compensation to the exonerated after their release, but the compensation laws in these vary widely. Click here to find your state on our interactive map.

Even within some states, exonerees’ experiences after exoneration – and the services offered by the state – can take different paths. Georgia is one of the 23 states without a statewide compensation law, but several exonerees have been awarded compensation by the legislature in individual bills. As the Associated Press reported recently, however, Georgia exonerees Samuel Scott and Douglas Echols never received any compensation from the state for the injustice they suffered.

Seven years after DNA evidence exonerated Echols and Scott, neither has received a cent from the state of Georgia. Their appeal was doomed by the influential district attorney of "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" fame who locked them both away in 1987 and is still not convinced they're innocent.

…"We're like ghosts," Scott said recently. "They want to pretend we don't exist."

…Like Echols and like most ex-cons, he's struggled to find steady work since he got out. He started a small landscaping business but has few customers these days. He had a line on a job waxing and cleaning floors that he says would have paid about $15 an hour, but when the company discovered he had a criminal record, it was a no go. He is two months behind on his mortgage.

Read the full story here.

(Associated Press, 7/18/09)

Read more about the Innocence Project’s efforts to seek exoneree compensation in states across the country.

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