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State of Rhode Island General Assembly
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Bill signed to compensate those who were falsely convicted
Rep. Patricia A. Serpa and Sen. Cynthia A. Coyne joined Gov. Daniel McKee Thursday as he ceremonially signed their legislation to compensate innocent people who spent time behind bars but were then released after new evidence proves they were not guilty.
“When an innocent person is put in prison, they not only lose their freedom but their future, their plans, everything they might have been,” said Representative Serpa (D-Dist. 27, West Warwick, Coventry, Warwick). “Once they are proven innocent, the task of re-entering society can be even more difficult than it is for those who rightfully paid for their crimes. Unlike those who are paroled, who have many services at their disposal, the innocent have nothing. They are left with no housing, no income, and no health care.”
“Individuals who have been wrongfully convicted have suffered a unique kind of injustice,” said Senator Coyne (D-Dist. 32, Barrington, Bristol, East Providence). “The state has taken from them years of freedom, which they can never get back. The personal loss is impossible to quantify, but the state has an obligation to provide some remedy to people who were wrongfully convicted.”
The legislation (
) allows anyone who was wrongfully sentenced to prison for more than one year to petition the presiding justice of Rhode Island Superior Court for compensation and damages. If the court finds that the claimant was wrongfully imprisoned, it will grant an award of $50,000 for each year served in a correctional facility. If imprisoned for less than one year, the claimant will receive 1/365 of $50,000 for each day served.
The award can include damages such as attorney’s fees no greater than $15,000, plus compensation for reasonable costs including housing, transportation, subsistence, re-integrative services, and mental and physical health care costs.
“It is hard to imagine the anger and suffering that one must face when wrongfully imprisoned,” said Governor McKee. “Wrongful imprisonment is an injustice, and as a state, we owe these individuals the compensation that they deserve. Although it can never give them back the time that they lost, we hope that it can help them to get back on the track to a successful life. I thank Representative Serpa and Senator Coyne for seeking justice for these individuals.”
IN PHOTO: Sen. Cynthia A. Coyne, left, and Rep. Patricia A. Serpa, right, hold their signed bills with Jeffrey Scott Hornoff, the former Warwick detective who served more than six years in prison for a murder he did not commit. Hornoff testified in favor of the bill during its hearings.
For more information, contact:
Meredyth R. Whitty
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903
Lt. Governor's Office
Secretary of State
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