Okay, it's really not that simple.
Nothing important ever is.
The Big Question:
Should someone wrongly convicted of a crime, and later fully exonerated, and found innocent, be owed any compensation when they are set free?
There are many cases now, in many states, due to DNA evidence showing innocence, especially in regards to cases of accused murder, rape and kidnapping.
These individuals have been in prison from a year or two, to sometimes twenty or thirty years.
They have no real hope of getting any decent job, they have to start all over from scratch, and in some cases, they were never trained or given any skills in prison.
Florida is one state which does not do any rehabilitation whatsoever. Prisoners coming out of Florida penitentiaries learn nothing about any skill or occupation. They are not even taught how to use a computer. NADA.
How do you decide what is right for these innocent individuals, wrongly convicted, often by pushy police or prosecutors looking to close a case, even when they suppress evidence that may exonerate, or actually make up evidence that is not there.
It is not only highly unlikely but for all practical purposes it is impossible to go after those police officers or prosecutors.
Gathering the evidence of what was done by whom is enormously difficult after years, and then the official in question has only to declare bankruptcy and they are not paying anything to the newly freed person.
There is no single standard across the country.
Some states have minimum amounts in programs meant to repay these people, some states have nothing in place and routinely pay nothing.
Some states pay $50,000 per year served, and sometimes double that for time on death row, some less, some more, some $0.00
Some offer a certain number of hours of job training, some 0.
In at least some states, the newly freed can go to court to try to get money, or more than the state offers. There is no guarantee they will get some, or any compensation, but they can try.
And most of the states that do have programs in place have what is called a "clean hands" clause.
This means that for any prisoner released due to being found totally innocent, there can be restitution in the form of money for time served, unless that freed person was ever convicted of a previous crime before they went away for the one they did not commit.
In other words, if a newly freed person spent 1 year in prison, or 25 years in prison, they can be due some compensation, UNLESS they EVER committed a previous crime before they were put away falsely.
Some states distinguish between previous crimes that were Misdemeanors or Felonies in deciding to award compensation.
The reasoning is that the citizens would be in an uproar if their tax dollars were spent compensation someone who, before their wrongful conviction, were convicted of (especially) one or more felonies.
Here is the argument:
"I am willing to use my tax dollars to compensate someone for time served for a crime they did not commit, unless they committed earlier crimes."
But what the hell sense does that make?
If a person committed a crime, or more than one crime, and was convicted of that crime, and served their time as required, what is it we have all heard from police and prosecutors?
They have - What is it? - What is it? -
Paid Their Debt To Society.
The argument should really end there.
Remember, they did not commit a previous crime and get away with it, they did not take off and stay on the lam until they were put away for the one they did not commit, they did not bribe the judge to skip out on serving their time.
Once they have paid their debt to society, they do not by definition owe society anything more for that transgression, that crime.
They have done their time.
People who want to give compensation only to those who have never committed an earlier crime are attempting to put their own frustration, fear and anger ahead of what is right, and what makes common sense.
Like so much public discourse currently, it is an emotionalk response masquerading as a practical one.
But please, be honest, you just want to hit them where it hurts. This has nothing to do with justice or fairness or right and wrong.
It has everything to do with retribution, and sanctimonious attitudes.
If you want to get retribution, go after the police or the prosecutors, or both, who wrongly put the individual away.
Crap! They are the ones who made this situation!
The individual who went to prison did not convict themselves, they did not want a vacation at the grey-bar hotel, they did not sneak in the pen just to waste taxpayer dollars!
Does Anyone In This Country Have A Brain Anymore?
Think about what causes things, and not just about an end result that makes you uncomfortable.
Why is there an individual who spent 10 years in prison for a crime they did not commit?
The person who was imprisoned falsely deserves compensation no matter what they did before, as long as they PAID THEIR DEBT TO SOCIETY.
If they did not pay their debt for previous crimes, they should get nothing.
If they have paid their debt for any previous crime, they should get the following from any state in which this happened:
$50,000 per year for time served
$100,000 per year for time served on death row
State college or university hours paid for to enable a 4 year degree
Housing assistance and fod stamps until the cash is paid.
Re-entry into society training, for such things as using a computer, maintaining a bank account, applying for a job, taking a driver license test, etc.
It's the least we can do.
Or, we can just execute them all in the dead of night so we don't have to face uncomfortable decisions like this.