Ellis Legislation to Increase Compensation for Wrongfully Imprisoned Approved by Senate Criminal Justice Committee
(Austin)// The Senate Criminal Justice Committee today approved legislation by Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) to boost compensation to wrongfully imprisoned Texans. The committee approved SB 440 by a vote of 4-0.
Senate Bill 440 doubles compensation for the wrongfully imprisoned from $25,000 per year, to $50,000 per year. The legislation also increases to $100,000 per year, compensation for innocent Texans who were sentenced to death row. The bill tracks federal legislation governing compensation of the wrongfully imprisoned. In 2004, President George W. Bush signed the Federal Justice for All Act, which provides the wrongfully imprisoned $50,000 for each year in which they were incarcerated, and provides $100,000 per year if they were sentenced to death row.
"When an innocent person is sent to prison, they are robbed not only of their freedom; they are robbed of their future," said Ellis. "Senate bill 440 is a small down payment on the futures of Texans whose lives injustice nearly destroyed."
In 2001, the legislature approved SB 536, legislation by Ellis to provide victims two options when seeking compensation. The first allows a person who has been wrongfully convicted to apply to the Comptroller for compensation. The wrongfully convicted person would be entitled to up to $25,000 for every year of wrongful imprisonment if the person provides the Comptroller with proof of incarceration and the pardon or court judgment clearing them of the crime.
Senate Bill 440 received a boost from the testimony of Anthony Robinson. Mr. Robinson spent over 10 years in a Texas prison for a rape he did not commit. Arrested in 1986, Mr. Robinson was sentenced to 27 years in prison. In 1996, he was paroled, but he spent the next half decade working to clear his name. He took low-paying jobs in order to scrape together the $1,800 he needed to finance his own DNA test. In 2000, he received the DNA evidence he needed and received a pardon by Governor George W. Bush. Since his pardon, Mr. Robinson has graduated from Texas Southern University's Thurgood Marshall School of Law and is now an attorney living in Houston.
"We cannot give back the years people like Anthony Robinson and Josiah Sutton had to serve in prison," said Ellis. "But we can right the wrong and give them the support they need to rebuild their lives."