CHICAGO – Despite the presumption that all people accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty, Illinois’ jails are largely populated by inmates that are awaiting trial and have not been convicted of a crime. In order to level the field for the falsely accused, state Rep. Mary E. Flowers, D-Chicago, has introduced an unprecedented measure that sets a per-year financial award for wrongfully imprisoned individuals who are found innocent.
“All too often, we see young men and women falsely accused of crimes, even with overwhelming evidence of their innocence, forced to sit in jail cells until their names are ultimately cleared,” said Flowers. “These innocent people’s lives are ruined by the time they spend fighting for their freedom and this bill is just one crucial step to ensuring the system is fair.”
House Bill 4362 is a measure that changes the award system for wrongfully incarcerated individuals by replacing the statutory ceilings and Court of Claims discretion on the amount awarded to those individuals with a benchmark, per-year number. Under the bill, wrongfully imprisoned people would be entitled to $50,000 per year that they were in jail and $25,000 per year of parole, probation or sex offender list registration. Current statute calls for any person serving 5 years or less to be awarded a maximum of $85,350, and anyone who falsely served more than 14 years is limited to no more than $199,150.
“People who are falsely accused and found innocent or have their charges dismissed should be compensated for the time that they spent away from their jobs and families,” said Flowers. “When they’re spending years and years fighting cases that have no weight, they fall even further behind on building wealth and securing the future for their families. We have to ensure that these individuals are on a path that will help them continue to be a functioning member of the community.”
House Bill 4362 is supported by the American Civil Liberties Union, Cook County Public Defenders, Safer Foundation and more with no known opponents. The bill is currently in the House Rules committee and is expected to be heard for consideration in the near future.
State Rep. Mary Flowers represents portions of the Auburn-Gresham community in Chicago, Oak Lawn, Chicago Ridge, Countryside and others. For more information, please contact Rep. Flowers’ constituent service office at 773-471-5200 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.