Feb. 11, 2020

 

                                               

House passes Serpa bill that would compensate those who have been wrongfully imprisoned

 

STATE HOUSE — The House of Representatives today passed legislation introduced by Rep. Patricia Serpa (D-Dist. 27, West Warwick, Coventry, Warwick) that would give compensation to innocent people who have spent time behind bars but later released when new evidence shows they were not guilty.

“When an innocent person is put in prison, they not only lose their freedom but their future, their plans, everything they might have been,” said Representative Serpa. “Once they are proven innocent, the task of re-entering society can be even more difficult than it is for those who rightfully paid for their crimes. Unlike those who are paroled, who have many services at their disposal, the innocent have nothing. They are left with no housing, no income, and no health care.”

Rhode Island in one of 17 states that does not compensate the wrongfully imprisoned. That would change with the legislation (2020-H 7086) Rep. Serpa has sponsored. The law would authorize any person who has been wrongfully sentenced to a term of imprisonment greater than one year to petition the presiding justice of Rhode Island Superior Court for an award of compensation and damages, including attorney’s fees.

“We as a society owe it to the wrongfully incarcerated to make up for the mistake we made in imprisoning them in the first place,” said Representative Serpa, who was contacted by a former Warwick police officer who spent six years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit. “We failed them when we slammed the cell door. This legislation will give us the opportunity to provide prompt and compassionate assistance to help make up for that mistake.”

Under the legislation, if the court found that the claimant was wrongfully incarcerated, it would grant an award of $50,000 for each year served in a correctional facility. For incarceration of less than a year, the amount would be prorated to 1/365 of $50,000 for every day served.

The award may be expanded to include compensation for any reasonable costs including housing, transportation, subsistence, re-integrative services, and mental and physical health care costs, along with reasonable attorney’s fees not to exceed $15,000.

“This is not only the right thing to do, but it’s an important step we need to take to ensure the integrity of our criminal justice system,” said Representative Serpa.

The measure now moves to the Senate for consideration.

 

 

 

-30-

 

For an electronic version of this and all press releases published by the Legislative Press and Public Information Bureau, please visit our Web site at www.rilegislature.gov/pressrelease.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The massive stimulus bill approved by Congress is the biggest economic rescue package in American history. The roughly two-trillion-dollar measure was signed by President Trump today during a brief ceremony in the Oval Office, after final passage by the U.S. House.        One death every 10 minutes. That's what New York is dealing with. The state reported 134 people died in just the past 24 hours.       Pennsylvania Congressman Mike Kelly is the latest lawmaker to test positive for coronavirus. The Republican was absent for today's vote regarding the two-trillion-dollar stimulus package because he was awaiting test results. He says his symptoms are mild and will work from home until he makes a full recovery.       The parents of at least five students say they are upset after a private California school expelled their children over complaints parents made during the coronavirus outbreak. The parents were upset after the Challenger School in Santa Clara County decided to remain open, even after most public schools had been shut down because of the pandemic.        Consumer sentiment is hitting a three-year low amid the coronavirus pandemic. The University of Michigan's index of consumer attitudes dropped to 89-point-one in March. That's its lowest level since October 2016 and the fourth largest drop in nearly 50 years.        As the coronavirus rages on, Walmart is offering a way to shop without making any contact. Customers can buy their groceries through Walmart Pay. This means they won't have to worry about touching screens when checking out.