State with Lowest Compensation for Wrongfully Convicted May Up the Ante

Under a draft of a Wisconsin bill, the maximum compensation for wrongful imprisonment would increase from $5,000 annually with an overall cap of $25,000 — the lowest level of compensation of states that offer it — to the federal level of $50,000 annually.
October 1, 2013
 

State Rep. Garey Bies doesn't know if it's possible for Wisconsin to fully pay back wrongfully convicted prisoners monetarily, but he thinks the state can do better than what it offers now.

"I think we have a responsibility to individuals who found themselves in that position," Bies (R-Sister Bay) said Monday. "I don't know how we could even monetarily pay them back for the anguish they went through, and the years they were in prison and they knew they were innocent."

The state offers a maximum payment of $25,000 doled out over five years. The state Claims Board determines the amount and can recommend that the state Assembly approve a higher amount.

The Claims Board, for example, has recommended that Robert Lee Stinson, an innocent man who spent 23 years in prison, receive an additional $90,000. The state Senate Committee on Judiciary and Labor will have a public hearing Tuesday to consider the extra payment to Stinson.

Stinson was convicted of raping and killing 63-year-old Ione Cychosz of Milwaukee in 1984 and was sentenced to life in prison. Moses Price, the man who actually killed Cychosz, was sentenced to 71/2 years in 2012 in addition to the prison sentence he received for a homicide he committed in 1991.

In cases like Stinson's, "the system broke down," Bies said.

"We have a responsibility as a state to help them out in a reasonable way," he said.

Under a draft of a bill co-sponsored by Bies and Rep. Gary Hebl (D-Sun Prairie), the maximum compensation for wrongful imprisonment would increase from $5,000 annually with an overall cap of $25,000 — the lowest level of compensation of states that offer it — to the federal level of $50,000 annually.

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