KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Innocent men and women who spend time in Kansas prisons will now receive financial compensation from the state based on the number of years they were incarcerated.
Governor Jeff Colyer signed House Bill 2579 into law Tuesday morning at Mount Zion Church of God in Christ. Kansas City, Kansas resident Lamonte McIntyre belongs to the church. He left prison last year after spending 23 years behind bars for crimes he didn’t commit.
The law gives innocent people $65,000 for each year they spent in prison on a wrongful conviction. It also gives the exonerated $25,000 for each year they spent on parole, probation, or a sexual offender list. The law provides healthcare, housing assistance, tuition assistance, counseling and financial literacy training. The law ensures exonerated men and women get a certificate of innocence expunging their record.
The law has some protections for taxpayers. The payments offset if the exoneree receives a civil settlement from the state.
Colyer called the legislation “a long time coming.” He said the law should be a model for the rest of the country. Kansas is the 33rd state to have some sort of compensation law for those wrongfully convicted of a crime. In Missouri, the state only compensates people exonerated based on DNA evidence.
Floyd Bledsoe spent 16 years in prison for crimes he didn’t commit . He echoed the governor saying other states should follow Kansas’ lead.
“To take steps just like Kansas and become a leader, say what we've done is wrong and change it. Let's make amends, let's be who we say we are,” Bledsoe said.
While all the provisions of the law help men like Bledsoe, McIntyre, and Richard Jones , the trio worked to create the law with the hope it would prevent others from spending time in prison for something they didn’t do.
“I hope this would be one of those safeguards in place so the job gets done in a way that there will never be a wrongful conviction. That's my goal. That's my hope. I think something good will come of that,” McIntyre said.
Senators Molly Baumgardner and David Haley worked with the Midwest Innocence Project to draft and pass this law.