Those who are wrongfully convicted of crimes in Wisconsin could receive greater compensation under a bipartisan bill that was before the Assembly Judiciary and Ethics Committee on Thursday.
Currently, innocent people who are wrongfully convicted can get $5,000 for each year they were imprisoned with an aggregate cap of $25,000.
Attorney Christopher Ochoa testified at the public hearing at the state Capitol on Thursday. He said without that compensation he would have never been able to enroll in law school at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
"That maximum, the $25,000, is just horrible and it needs to be increased to significantly more so (that people who are exonerated) can get a leg up, a push up," Ochoa said.
Ochoa spent 12 years in prison in Texas before DNA evidence found by the Wisconsin Innocence Project exonerated him. He said settlement money offered in Wisconsin is the lowest level in the country.
The Wrongly Convicted Reentry Act (AB-452), a bill authored by Rep. Garey Bies, R-Sister Bay, and Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, would increase the maximum compensation an innocent inmate could receive for their false imprisonment to the federal level, which is $50,000 per year with no aggregate cap.
"Currently, a guilty person gets more help from the state upon their release from prison than an innocent person and that's just wrong. I want to thank Rep. Jim Ott for giving this bill a public hearing and Wisconsin Innocence Project for their advocacy for this bill," Pocan said in a statement.