Back in April, we told you about several proposed changes to Section 8-b of the New York Claims Act, which is the state law that allows victims of wrongful convictions to seek damages from the state.
At the time, there were multiple pieces of legislation being proposed that sought to change this statute, including one that would have entitled wrongful conviction victims to damages of at least one million dollars for each year behind bars. However, given that most of these bills were quite new back in April, it was unclear at that time if they had the support they needed to become law.
Well, now that several months have passed, we have a better idea on the status of these bills — and it isn’t good news for victims of wrongful convictions. In fact, none of these bills have even made it to the floor for a vote, let alone passed.
Proposed changes don’t seem to be going anywhere
In total, there were at least three bills introduced this year that sought to increase the benefits and damages available to wrongful conviction victims under section 8-b of the New York Claims Act. These bills included Assembly Bill 3894, Senate Bill 53 and Assembly Bill 5306.
Some of these proposed benefits/damages contained in one or more of these bills included:
- One million dollars for each year wrongfully in prison, as mentioned above
- Reimbursement for legal fees
- Enrollment in a health benefit plan, which is paid for by the state
- Medical costs, including expenses for therapy
- Education assistance, including free tuition for the victim and his or her children at a state university or college
- Compensation for lost wages
- No taxes on any damages received by the victim
While these benefits would certainly be valuable to victims of wrongful convictions, the unfortunate reality is that none of the bills have even made it to the floor for a vote, so far — although a couple specific committees did vote on AB 3894. Hopefully, lawmakers in the future will take this issue seriously and pass the laws needed to help wrongful conviction victims move on with their lives.