Bill would mean more money for those wrongfully convicted in Wisconsin: "It's long overdue"

MADISON -- People who are wrongfully convicted of crimes in Wisconsin could soon see significantly more money from the state. The Wisconsin Assembly will take up the legislation Tuesday, February 9th.

Currently, the compensation those wrongfully convicted of a crime in Wisconsin are eligible for is the lowest in the country.

"You can't put a price tag on the harm that's been caused, but at least you can try to come up with some fair measure of compensation," Keith Findley with the Wisconsin Innocence Project said.

The measure to be voted on by the Assembly on Tuesday would raise the yearly payout to as much as $50,000 per year in prison with an overall limit of $1 million.

Those figures would be adjusted for inflation every five years.

Currently, the State Claims Board can only pay out $5,000 per year behind bars with a maximum of $25,000.

This bill would apply to anyone wrongly convicted since 1990.

"Many states and the federal government have no cap at all, so this is really quite probably a conservative, cautious approach to it, but it still vastly improves the situation we have now," Findley said.

"It's way overdue. You can't bring back that the time that those people lost," Rep. Joel Kitchens (R-Sturgeon Bay) said.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle say the fiscal impact to the state will be small.

"Anyone who's received compensation through civil actions, whatever money they received would be taken dollar for dollar against any award they would get from the state," Rep. Gary Hebl (D-Sun Prairie) said.

Hebl says only nine people would be eligible for the increased compensation.

The measure would need Senate approval before it could go to Governor Scott Walker's desk. A Senate committee unanimously supported the bill last month.

Along with compensation, people who are wrongly convicted would also be removed from court databases. They would also get access to the state's health insurance program and to transitional services, such as job training and housing.

READ IT: Assembly Bill 460.