The Scholar: St. Mary's Law Review on Race and Social Justice


Donna McKneelen


All states should pass compensation statutes that provide financial assistance to exonerees. Following wrongful incarceration, exonerees may suffer from post-traumatic stress and may need assistance readjusting to everyday life. Many exonerees may be be ineligible for social benefits and may lack a support system. The exoneree may be alienated because family and friends may still believe that the exoneree actually committed the crime. Furthermore, exonerees may struggle to obtain employment because they lack the current educational and job training skills required for most jobs. Additionally, exonerees may have pre-existing health problems that were exacerbated while incarcerated. An exoneree’s health problems would make them less attractive to prospective employers. Because financial resources may be limited or nonexistent to many exonerees, it is imperative for states to provide them aid. As of today, twenty-three states offer no financial aid to exonerees. Although twenty-seven states and the District of Columbia have passed some sort of legislation to benefit exonerees, there is a lack of consistency among these states in providing them compensation. Some inconsistencies include differing filing procedures, types and amounts of compensation, statutes of limitations, and tax exemptions. For the sake of consistency each statute should: be easy to understand, require a simple filing process, provide an allowance for attorney’s fees, include a provision for surviving spouses to receive compensation in the event of the exoneree’s death, not be subject to a statute of limitations, include an offset provision, not consider award as gross income, be exempt award from state taxes, and include services to assist exonerees transition back into society.

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St. Mary's University School of Law



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