Senate unanimously passes wrongful incarceration compensation revamp

The measure awaits approval in the House.

The full Senate unanimously passed legislation changing the state’s compensation rules for the wrongfully imprisoned, bringing reform one step closer to law.

With Thursday’s Senate passage, the issue moves to the House. Similar legislation (HB 43) has passed first reading there.

The bill (SB 382), filed by Republican Sen. Jennifer Bradley of Fleming Island, would bring the state closer in line with other states regarding rules governing compensation for those imprisoned on charges that ultimately didn’t hold up.

“Eighteen people who collectively had 304 years of life taken from them cannot receive compensation because of two barriers present in our law,” Bradley said. “This bill addresses these barriers and brings our statute more in line with the rest of the country.”

Bradley’s bill strikes the current “clean hands” caveat, which allows only those with one or fewer nonviolent felonies to get the $50,000 per year the wrongfully incarcerated are entitled to under state statute.

It also extends the deadline for which the wrongfully incarcerated can apply for compensation from 90 days to two years after the criminal charges are dismissed or the person is retried and acquitted.

After hours of debate over contentious issues such as permitless carry and new abortion restrictions, the bill’s introduction and passage produced a moment of bipartisan accord.

Democratic Sen. Bobby Powell of West Palm Beach thanked Bradley for carrying the bill, which had been considered previously.

“I know this goes way back, even with previous Sen. (Rob) Bradley and Sen (Arthenia) Joyner in terms of working on this legislation — it was a real, real big deal back then. And it’s a big deal now,” Powell said. “And we’re very appreciative and thankful. Every member of this chamber, I think, is thankful for you to carry this good piece of legislation.”

Committee hearings included Herman Lindsey, who was on Death Row on the say-so of a fellow inmate and could not receive the compensation because of a juvenile conviction. While the bill moved through the legislative process, another man was freed after serving 34 years of a 400-year sentence.

Anne Geggis

Anne Geggis is a South Florida journalist who began her career in Vermont and has worked at the Sun-Sentinel, the Daytona Beach News-Journal and the Gainesville Sun covering government issues, health and education. She was a member of the Sun-Sentinel team that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Parkland high school shooting. You can reach her on Twitter @AnneBoca or by emailing [email protected].



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