To: Members, Assembly Committee on State Affairs
From: State Bar of Wisconsin
Date: Dec. 20, 2017
Re: AB 548 – exoneree compensation
The State Bar of Wisconsin supports AB 548, Rep. Kooyenga’s wrongful conviction compensation legislation, which would adequately compensate those who the justice system has failed through wrongful convictions and imprisonment. This legislation is similar to 2015’s AB 460, but incorporates changes made at legislators’ request.
Wisconsin was once a leader in providing a statutory mechanism for compensating individuals who are able to prove that they were innocent of the offense for which they were wrongly convicted. However, Wisconsin’s statute has not been updated in decades, and is now the most inadequate of any such statute in the nation.
Currently, the state claims board can award compensation to individuals who can prove their innocence, but can only award up to $5,000 per year of wrongful imprisonment, capped at a maximum of $25,000. In addition, there is no provision for assistance with education, housing, health care, counseling, employment, or anything else that the system would provide for a person released on parole or extended supervision.
This proposal is a significant step forward in correcting these deficiencies. Most importantly, there is an increase in compensation to the national norm of $50,000/year with a $1 million cap. Exonerees would also be eligible for health insurance at a subsidized rate, and receive transition assistance from the Department of Corrections. The proposal would also create an effective and timely process for hearing and deciding compensation claims, while also ensuring that undeserving individuals (those who committed related offenses or subsequent serious felonies) do not receive a windfall.
Provisions are also included in the bill for the claims board to re–evaluate the caps on annual and lifetime compensation every five years in order to make adjustments based on the cost of living.
The State Bar of Wisconsin believes AB 548 is an attempt to correct errors in the judicial system, to ensure that exonerees are appropriately compensated for the injustice they suffered and the years of freedom they lost. As such, the State Bar of Wisconsin respectfully requests support from the members of the Assembly State Affairs Committee for AB 548.
For more information, please do not hesitate to contact the State Bar lobbyists, Cale Battles, firstname.lastname@example.org or (608) 695–5686, or Lynne Davis, email@example.com or (608) 852–3603.