A bipartisan effort at the Georgia legislature is seeking to create a more uniform, consistent process to securing compensation for the state’s wrongfully convicted. One proposed measure, HB 1354, would set a ceiling and a floor for what those people can be paid and establish a panel of experts to vet their claims, reports the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Advocates say that the state’s current procedure for financial restitution is arduous and inconsistent, forcing exonerees through a frustratingly complex approval process that can take months if not years to complete, sometimes failing due to broader political dynamics, and ultimately pays greatly varying dollar amounts under equally inconsistent terms.
Proponents say the measure would make Georgia’s system fairer and bring the state in line with two-thirds of U.S. states and the federal government. The legislation would create a panel of political appointees — all subject matter experts in wrongful convictions or criminal justice — under the Claims Advisory Board to vet compensation claims. The panel would then recommend a dollar figure to the chief justice of the Georgia Supreme Court, who would include that in his budget request to lawmakers. The measure would also set clear criteria for who can and can’t qualify for compensation — exonerees would have to prove their innocence to be eligible — and establishes a range of $50,000 to $100,000 for how much each person should expect to receive based on each year they spent wrongfully imprisoned.