TESTIMONY OF VIGNESH GANAPATHY POLICY DIRECTOR, AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION OF KANSAS
IN SUPPORT OF HB 2579 KANSAS HOUSE COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY
FEBRUARY 14, 2018
Thank you, Chair Finch, and members of the Judiciary Committee for affording us the opportunity to provide testimony on HB 2579.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Kansas is a non-partisan, non-political membership organization dedicated to preserving and strengthening the constitutional liberties afforded to every resident of Kansas. We work to preserve and strengthen our constitutional rights and freedoms through policy advocacy, litigation, and education. We proudly serve over 30,000 supporters in Kansas and represent more than 1.6 million supporters nationwide.
The ACLU of Kansas is pleased to support HB 2579. This bill would allow exonerated people to obtain government compensation for their wrongful conviction and imprisonment. Specifically, the ACLU of Kansas supports HB 2579 because:
- People who are wrongfully convicted of crimes continue to face obstacles after their release. Across the country, 123 people have been exonerated and released from death row since 1973, mostly men of color. And those proven to have been wrongfully convicted through postconviction DNA testing spend, on average, more than 14 years behind bars. During that time, these individuals are unable to develop essential skills for work, pay into social security and unemployment benefits, or build whole lives. With no money, housing, transportation, health services or insurance, and a criminal record that is rarely cleared, the punishment lingers long after innocence has been proven. The hurdles can be too steep to overcome.
- Wrongful imprisonment is the most se vere deprivation of liberty, and Kansas has a responsibility to foster re-entry and restore a sense of justice. That’s why the federal government, the District of Columbia, and 32 states have compensation statutes of some form, but Kansas is in the minority without one. In recent years, Floyd Bledsoe, Richard Jones, and Lamonte McIntyre were all wrongfully convicted by the state. Mr. Bledsoe and Mr. Jones each served 16 years and Mr. McIntyre spent 23 years behind bars, all while they were innocent. These men missed either their own childhoods or the early lives of their children. Now they are struggling to make ends meet. While people who are exonerated will never be given that time back, these devastating effects can be mitigated through this bill. Kansas can join the chorus of states that have enacted wrongful imprisonment compensation statutes and right these wrongs.
Therefore, we urge this committee to vote “Yes” on HB 2579.