NEWS: Rep. Kawasaki Passes Bill to Compensate the Wrongfully Convicted

Rep. Scott Kawasaki

Bill Moves to the Judiciary Committee

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 7, 2015

JUNEAU – This morning, the House State Affairs Committee passed House Bill 55 sponsored by Representative Scott Kawasaki (D-Fairbanks).  HB 55 establishes an administrative process whereby a wrongfully convicted and incarcerated Alaskan can apply to receive compensation for their time spent in prison.

If passed, HB 55 would make Alaska the 31st state to have a compensation statute. According to the Alaska Innocence Project, there haven’t been any exonerations in the Last Frontier, but there are several cases currently being litigated that could qualify under the bill. Wrongfully incarcerated Alaskans would receive $50,000 per year spent behind bars, with a $2 million cap.

At the hearing, Rep. Kawasaki asked the committee how much it would cost them to give up three decades of their life.  “While there is no amount that can truly compensate for time wrongfully spent behind bars, this money would give the individual the resources to repair their life and reintegrate into society,” said Rep. Kawasaki.

HB 55 would bring Alaska into line with the federal standard of compensation established in 2004 by the Justice for All Act signed by President George W. Bush. A compensation statute protects the state from more costly litigation that would result from suing for civil damages while also recognizing the state’s mistake and the individual’s innocence.

House Bill 55 now moves to the House Judiciary Committee for further consideration.

For additional information contact Riley Leonard at (907) 456-7423.

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