Hurdles for Inmate Compensation

June 11th, 2009

Florida man William Dillon spent 27 years in prison for a murder that he did not commit. Since being exonerated by DNA evidence in 2008, Dillon has found a job as a mechanic and is gradually readjusting to normal life but has yet to see any compensation from the state for his wrongful incarceration. Due to Florida’s “Clean Hands” statute that was passed in 2008, Dillon’s 1979 conviction for a non-violent drug crime makes him ineligible for receiving compensation without attempting to go through a separate funding process. Florida’s innocence project has taken on the task of aiding Dillon in receiving state funding and is pursuing a legislative request for $1.3 million. Legislative hurdles for monetary restitution for wrongly convicted individuals, like Florida’s “Clean Hands” law, are prevalent in different forms across the country. In many states, compensation is determined through a separate court or gubernatorial review. In a discussion about compensation for wrongly convicted individuals on NPR, professor Karen Daniel, a staff attorney at Northwestern University’s Center on Wrongful Convictions commented, “In virtually every state, it’s now his burden to prove innocence. It’s not enough that the charges have been dropped. It’s not even enough that he’s found not guilty by a jury. He has to affirmatively prove innocence, and that’s difficult to do.” These hurdles to compensation often add a financial component to the already difficult adjustment former inmates must make to society outside of prison.