TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Three men who were wrongfully convicted and sentenced to prison told lawmakers that people like them should be compensated for the time they lost.
Programs like the Innocence Project help fight the legal battles for those who are wrongfully convicted, but those who are freed often walk out of jail with nothing.
“From the simple tasks of trying to find a place to live to how to find furniture. How to get the stuff we need to survive,” said Floyd Bledsoe, who was exonerated in 2015.
Bledsoe spent nearly 16 years in prison. He had been wrongfully convicted for the rape and murder of his 14-year-old sister in-law, Camille Arfmann, in rural Oskaloosa. His brother, Tom Bledsoe, later confessed in a suicide note.
He took his first steps as a free man in 2015, with clothes he had to borrow from his attorney.
“It’s hard for people to comprehend what it’s like to walk out after being labeled a murder and a child molester,” Bledsoe told lawmakers.
A bill before the Senate Judiciary Committee would help those wrongfully convicted be compensated and give them resources to start a new life.
“Ironically, they would have gotten more from the state of Kansas if they were guilty because they would have gotten $100 in gate money and they would have gotten access to job training and mentorship programs,” said Michelle Feldman, with the Innocence Project.
The bill says those wrongfully convicted could file a lawsuit in district court after their release. The judge would then grant them $80,000 per year they were incarcerated.
“Imagine any of us being in that position. Knowing we are fully innocent of a crime of which we’ve been convicted,” said Sen. David Haley (D-Kansas City).
“I think it would help me get established as a man in America basically.“ said Lamonte McIntyre, who was exonerated in 2017.
Lawmakers considered a similar bill last session but it did not pass. No one spoke against it on Wednesday..
The committee plans to work the Bill Monday, and could vote then whether to send it to the full Senate for debate.