Alaskans Who Suffer Legal Injustices Deserve Fair and Reasonable Compensation
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 5, 2015
JUNEAU – A bill creating a system to fairly compensate those wrongfully convicted in Alaska will be the subject of public testimony next week in the Alaska Legislature. House Bill 55, sponsored by Representative Scott Kawasaki (D-Fairbanks), has been scheduled for a public hearing before the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, February 10, 2016 at 1 p.m.
HB 55 establishes an administrative process whereby a wrongfully convicted and incarcerated Alaskan can apply to receive compensation for their time spent in prison. Thanks in part to advancements in DNA examination technology, exonerations are on the rise nationally and in Alaska.
“The provisions in House Bill 55 would not directly cover the Fairbanks Four but that case clearly shows that sometimes mistakes are made by the legal system and the courts,” said Rep. Kawasaki. “As a matter of fairness, Alaska should have a system in place to allow those wrongfully convicted to seek redress in the form of monetary compensation when their liberty is taken from them by the state.”
If passed, HB 55 would make Alaska the 31st state to have such a statute. The bill allows wrongfully incarcerated Alaskans to receive $50,000 per year spent behind bars with a total cap of $2 million. HB 55 would bring Alaska into line with the federal standard of compensation established in 2004 by the Justice for All Act signed by President George W. Bush. The benefits of creating a compensation statute in Alaska include protecting the state from more costly litigation as the result of those wrongfully convicted suing for civil damages. Compensating wrongfully convicted persons also recognizes the state’s mistake and the individual’s innocence.
“There is no real price that can be placed on the emotional and personal suffering of those wrongfully incarcerated,” said Rep. Kawasaki. “However, offering a fair amount of compensation would give the individual the resources to repair their life and reintegrate into society.”
House Bill 55 cleared the House State Affairs Committee last year. The bill is scheduled to be taken up by the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday. Rep. Kawasaki is hopeful public pressure will encourage his colleagues in the Alaska Legislature to pass the bill and send it to Governor Walker for his signature.
Those interested in giving public testimony can do so at Legislative Information Offices across the state or by calling the toll free teleconference number at (844) 586-9085. Due to a limited number of lines, please keep trying if the line is busy.
For more information, contact Lachlan Gillispie in Rep. Kawasaki’s office at (907)465-3466.