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Rep. Anchia, Rafael

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ANCHIA BILL INCREASES COMPENSATION, OTHER BENEFITS FOR WRONGLY IMPRISONED TEXANS  print page

by: Rep. Anchia, Rafael
02/27/2009

(Austin)--State Representative Rafael Anchia (Dallas) has filed House Bill 1736, which would increase the lump sum compensation paid to victims of wrongful imprisonment from $50,000 to $80,000 for each year of imprisonment. In addition to the lump sum payment, the bill would also require the State of Texas to make monthly payments to the exonerated individual, for life.



"We've unjustly taken away precious years of these people's lives--how do you put a number on that?" Anchia asked, adding, "This bill is simply a recognition that what the state is currently providing them is not enough--we clearly need to do more."



The bill would pay an additional lump sum to exonerees who, after serving a sentence in a Texas prison were released on parole or required to register as a sex offender. That amount would be equal to $25,000 multiplied by the number of years served either on parole or as a registered sex offender.



Under current law, compensation is based on the amount of time spent in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. The Anchia bill would add to that the time spent in city or county jail. Additional benefits of the bill include provision of health insurance under the state Group Benefits Plan and upon request, up to 120 hours of tuition at a career center, community college or state university.



If a claimant receives a subsequent felony conviction, they lose their eligibility for compensation, and any annuity would cease.



Some Texas exonerees have chosen to file lawsuits rather than take the compensation provided by the current law, because they claim the compensation is inadequate. Under HB 1736 , if a person accepts the statutory compensation, they give up their right to file any lawsuit over their wrongful conviction and incarceration. By averting potential lawsuits, this provision could save local governments a considerable sum. The City of Austin paid $9 million to settle the Danziger Case and $5.3 million to settle the Ochoa case. In other states, recoveries in wrongful incarceration cases range between $5 million and $11 million dollars.



"Until now, these guys have been the forgotten men of the criminal justice system" said Jeff Blackburn of the Innocence Project of Texas, adding, "We've been trying to duck the issue of how much damage the system has really done to them, and now it's time to fix the problem."



Representative Rafael Anchia is a former DISD school board trustee serving his third term in the Texas House and represents District 103 of northwest Dallas County. He serves as Vice Chair of the Pensions, Investments and Financial Services Committee and also serves on the Elections and Local and Consent Calendars Committees



Contact: Tim Dickey
(512) 463-0746

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