Texas State Representative Senfronia Thompson Gives Her "Little Dog" Report From The State Capitol

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Salvage Work

It is the time in session when members are working together to save legislation that was placed late on the calendar by amending bills those that are still eligible. Last night we were able to salvage two of Sen. Ellis's bills dealing with compensation of wrongfully imprisoned persons, by amending them to S.B. 1719. Appropriations Chairman Chisum accepted the amendments and for that I think he deserves some credit. One removed the added obstacle of requiring a letter from the District Attorney that states a wrongfully convicted claimant is innocent before he can receive the compensation to which he is entitled. Many D.A.s have been reluctant to sign such certification due to various political pressures and the potential for increased exposure to litigation. This requirement has made it hard for many of these persons to get the money they are owed so they can get on with their lives.

The second amendment would increase the compensation for the wrongfully convicted from $25k/year to $50k/year, and removes the current cap of $500k. This would bring Texas compensation statute up to par with Federal Justice For All Act of 2004.

When an Innocent person is sent to prison, they are robbed not only of their freedom; they are robbed of their future. These individuals are forced to endure a living nightmare; years of their lives are stolen, opportunities are lost, and dreams are crushed.

Unfortunately, the nightmare doesn't always end after they are exonerated and released from prison. The victims of wrongful incarceration face numerous obstacles in the effort to put their lives back together. Ironically, the wrongfully convicted actually have access to fewer resources for readjusting to society than guilty prisoners when they are released--no access to job placement services, readjustment services, etc. They have resume' gaps from spending years in prison, and are released with little more than an overcoat and bus money.

As a result, a recent study of how exonorees faired upon release from prison found that a third were unemployed, 43% were earning less money than before they entered prison, 44% lacked adequate housing, and 54% did not have health insurance.
Texas has a responsibility to restore these innocents’ lives to the best of our ability. We can't give them back the years they were forced to suffer behind bars, but the least we can do is give them the support they need to rebuild the life we helped to destroy.


  • At 5:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

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