Texas Leads the U.S. in Compensating Wrongly Convicted; 21 States Say “Sue Us”

Thursday, June 19, 2014
Patrick Waller, wrongly convicted, was paid $1.4 million by state of Texas after serving 16 years in prison (photo: Tony Gutierrez, AP)

With advances in genetic profiling making exonerations more prevalent, many states have adopted laws to compensate the wrongly convicted.


Texas, known for its tough-on-crime stance, leads the nation by paying those wrongly convicted $80,000 for each year they were incarcerated. Colorado is close behind at $70,000 a year.


Six states: Alabama, Florida, Minnesota, Mississippi, North Carolina and Washington, plus the federal government, pay $50,000 per year incarcerated. Among the other nine states that always pay the same amount, the compensation varies wildly, from $43,859 in Virginia to only $5,000 in Wisconsin.


But 21 states have no statute on their books to address these situations, leaving them wide open for lawsuits and possibly higher payouts than states with fixed compensations. In some instances, the damages can reach $1 million for each year of incarceration.


The states with no policy are Oregon, Nevada, Idaho, Arizona, New Mexico, Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Kansas, Arkansas, Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Georgia, South Carolina, Alaska, Hawaii, Rhode Island and Delaware.


The rest of the states (12) and the District of Columbia resolve damages on a case-by-case basis.

-Noel Brinkerhoff, Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

When Innocent People Go To Prison, States Pay (by Gabrielle Emanuel, National Public Radio)

Exonerations of Americans Wrongly Convicted of a Crime Hit Record Number (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Report Catalogues Exonerated Americans who Served more than 10,000 Years in Prison (by Matt Bewig, AllGov)


Leave a comment