Bill Proposed to Compensate the Wrongfully Convicted in Pennsylvania

Two Pennsylvania state legislators on Friday proposed a law to facilitate compensation for those who the commonwealth imprisons based on wrongful convictions. 

State Representatives Frank Ryan (R-Palmyra) and Regina Young (D-Philadelphia) plan to introduce the legislation to bring Keystone State policy into line with 38 other states that indemnify exonerated people. 

“When an individual is wrongfully convicted and incarcerated the consequences are devastating not only to them but their families and friends,” Ryan and Young wrote in a memorandum asking fellow representatives to back their measure. “Individuals are not only deprived of their liberty, but they miss holidays, birthdays, and other important life events. They undoubtedly will suffer negative economic and professional consequences as well.”

The two lawmakers wrote that anyone petitioning for compensation from the state for the time they improperly endured prison or parole must show “by a preponderance of the evidence” that they received a felony conviction, served part of the resultant prison term, did not commit the crime in question, and received a pardon or dismissal of their charges. 

Damages for those who succeed in applying for them will be based on the durations of the ex-prisoners’ sentences as well as child support obligations, counsel fees and pertinent mental or physical healthcare costs. Ryan and Young also indicated their bill will connect exonerated ex-prisoners with services to aid their return to society. 

According to Young, Pennsylvania has seen more than 100 of its prisoners — many of whom stayed in jail for decades — get exonerated over the last 30 years. The representative has been outspoken on her views on this matter since hearing from wrongfully convicted ex-prisoners at a House Democratic Policy Committee hearing earlier this year. State Representatives Ed Neilson (D-Philadelphia), Kevin Boyle, (D-Philadelphia) and Mary Jo Daley (D-Conshohocken) indicated they will co-sponsor legislation to address this issue. 

Ryan and Young’s memo did not indicate amounts to be awarded. Last year, Governor Tom Wolf (D) proposed payments of $50,000 per year of improper imprisonment. 

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Bradley Vasoli is managing editor of The Pennsylvania Daily Star. Follow Brad on Twitter at @BVasoli. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Regina Young” by Rep. Regina Young. Photo “Frank Ryan” by PA State Rep. Frank Ryan. Background Photo “Pennsylvania State Capitol” by Dough4872. CC BY-SA 4.0.


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