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Michigan State Senate To Vote On Compensation For Wrongful Imprisonment

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Legislation up for a vote in the state Senate today would compensate people who are exonerated for the time they were wrongfully imprisoned. 

Davontae Sanford could be able to collect a payout from the state of about $400,000 for his imprisonment on a wrongful conviction.  That’s under legislation expected to come up for a vote in the state Senate Thursday to compensate exonerated inmates for their time in prison.

Sanford, 23, walked out of prison Wednesday afternoon following eight years of incarceration.  He was convicted of murder for a killing spree that someone else later confessed to.  He was arrested when he was 14 years old. 

Sanford’s mother told The Detroit News she’s concerned about how he’ll fare outside prison after eight years.  “I’m excited, and I’m nervous for the society he’s coming home to,” she told The News.  “It’s not going to be easy.  Nothing will be the same for him.  He doesn’t even know how to drive; I guess I’ll have to be his chauffeur until he learns.”

State Senator SteveBieda (D-Warren) said that’s exactly what his legislation tries to address.  “It puts them into a place to help pick up the pieces of their life and move forward,” he said.  “It’s a humane thing to do.  It’s really, it’s a just thing to do.  Society needs to be accountable.” 

At least 30 states and Washington D.C. havelaws that compensate people who’ve been wrongly convicted and imprisoned. 

The University of Michigan Innocence Projectestimates 26 other wrongfully imprisoned former prisoners would be eligible for payments under the legislation that’s been the subject of negotiations for many years.  Among the provisions – former inmates would give up the right to sue the state for their imprisonment. 

The bills would pay exonerated inmates $50,000 for every year of wrongful incarceration.  It would also offer aftercare services such as mental health treatments that are made available to paroled felons.

Bieda says that’s critical because exonerated inmates still have to deal with the trauma and anger of being wrongly incarcerated.  “We can’t give people their lost freedom back, but it is a right direction to go as far as trying to rectify some of the wrongs that have happened,” he said. 

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— Rick Pluta is the Managing Editor and Reporter for the Michigan Public Radio network.  Contact WEMU News at734.487.3363 or email us at studio@wemu.org

Rick Pluta is the managing editor for the Michigan Public Radio Network.
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