BATON ROUGE, La. (WDSU) – More than 30 people who spent time behind bars – some of them for decades — for crimes they didn’t commit are set to receive a boost in compensation from Louisiana.
State lawmakers on Thursday, the last day of the legislative session, approved a bill to raise the rate of compensation for wrongfully incarcerated people from $25,000 per every year of wrongful incarceration to $40,000 for every year. The current system and the proposed one both cap out after a decade. The maximum someone can receive from the state if Gov. John Bel Edwards signs the bill into law is $400,000. The $25,000 payments would be made annually to those who qualify for compensation unless the person opts instead for a $250,000 lump sum.
The state’s current compensation rate is the fourth-lowest of the 36 states with a compensation program and the lowest among Louisiana’s neighbors: Texas, Alabama Mississippi and Florida all give at least $50,000 a year. The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Joe Marino of Gretna, initially called for $50,000 a year with no cap on the numbers of years behind bars for which the person is compensated. He was forced to lower the rate and cap it as part of a compromise to overcome a reluctant panel of House lawmakers.
Marrero resident Glenn Davis spent nearly 15 years behind bars for a crime he didn’t commit. He previously spoke to WDSU about how those years in prison impacted his life and earning potential. While he says Marino and others pushing for the legislation hoped for more, he’s grateful for the increase the lawmaker and their team of advocates were able to achieve.
“Anytime you can garner a win, especially in, you know, in the world today is all good and a positive,” Davis said Friday. “I felt very ecstatic about that win.”
If the bill is signed into law as expected, the change in law will directly impact at least 33 people who already qualify for compensation. That’s in addition to those who would qualify in the future for compensation, a process that requires approval from a judge.
Davis says he’ll use the money to invest in his trucking business and to take care of his family.