Four years after Indiana enacted a law providing restitution in wrongful conviction cases, 33 people have applied, News From The States reports. The restitution is worth up to $50,000 per year of unwarranted incarceration. The state owes $3 million for collective decades spent wrongfully behind bars to 10 people. Of the 33 applicants, 10 have been approved and 15 denied. “I think it is extremely insightful on the part of Indiana to recognize these things happen,” said Indiana Public Defender Council Director Bernice Corley. “People are wrongfully convicted. What is just a way to address that?”
Before the restitution program, the exonerated had little means for recourse besides legal action. So they’d sue. That process comes with risks: getting nothing. The state of Indiana, conversely, faces the chance that an exoneree will win a massive, budget-busting payout. Restitution, Corley said, is “kind of a middle-of-the-road compromise for everyone involved.” To apply, people must have served time in Indiana for a conviction that was vacated, reversed or set aside and be “actually innocent.” They must apply within two years of that decision. To get paid, they must drop any related lawsuits against state or local government entities or employees. Although innocence projects have advocated on behalf of numerous exonerees in Indiana and across the U.S., the state has no centralized means of identifying those who mistakenly served time. Staff must verify the facts of each case and find supporting documentation. Indiana law bars payments to applicants who are currently incarcerated for unrelated cases.