People convicted of felonies in Missouri but proven innocent by DNA evidence can be paid $100 for every day they were incarcerated after their conviction. People proven innocent by any other means get nothing. At least one Missouri lawmaker will try to change that in the 2023 legislative session.
Kansas City Democrat Mark Sharp filed on Thursday House Bill 113 to extend restitution to anyone exonerated for a felony in Missouri.
Sharp said the idea continues to have bipartisan support.
“I think most folks would agree that if somebody was wrongfully convicted it shouldn’t matter if it was through DNA tests or through any evidentiary method.”
Similar legislation was approved by two House committees in the session that ended in May by a combined vote of 24-1, but it was never brought up on the House floor for debate.
Sharp said the amount of harm done to a person and their family by a wrongful conviction goes well beyond the inability to have a job during their incarceration. It can involve difficulty finding work and housing after release, lingering issues that could require medical treatment and counseling, and relationship issues.
“This can devastate an entire generation, or several generations in the family when the head of a household or a man or a husband or a wife or a father or a mother or a daughter or a son, for that matter, is put away wrongfully, and for them to walk away with nothing just isn’t right,” said Sharp. “If somebody wasn’t able to receive all the restitution payments, those payments need to be then deferred to someone else in that family. This needs to be a full payout.”
Sharp hopes the legislature would also look at some point into increasing the restitution amount from $100 for every day of imprisonment.
“It probably doesn’t go far enough, honestly. I would hope that at some point we could have a robust discussion about what that payment should look like,” Sharp said. “It’s not going to break the bank … this is something that happens very rarely and when it does we need to pay them accordingly.”
Missouri’s restitution statute has been under more scrutiny in recent years as more attention was paid to the case of Kevin Strickland. He was released from prison a year ago after serving 42 years of a life sentence for murder before being proven innocent, but because he was not exonerated based on DNA evidence he received no compensation from the State of Missouri.
Thursday was the first day legislators could prefile bills for the new session, which begins January 4.