Whitmer signs wrongful imprisonment bills into law

    Michigan Capitol | Susan J. Demas

    Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed a flurry of bills into law on Tuesday. Among those are three bipartisan pieces of legislation related to compensation for wrongful imprisonment, which is an area of criminal justice reform that began seeing progress in the Michigan Legislature last year.

    The legislation will ensure that Michiganders who were wrongfully imprisoned receive the compensation they are due for the time they spend incarcerated, even if they were exonerated of the crime before the state’s Wrongful Imprisonment Compensation Act (WICA) went into effect in March 2017.

    House Bill 5117, introduced by state Rep. Kyra Bolden (D-Southfield), exempts WICA claims from the usual Court of Claims notification deadlines and statute of limitations. House Bill 5118, sponsored by state Rep. Julie Calley (R-Portland), would extend the filing window for individuals who wish to apply for compensation under WICA but were exonerated before it became law.

    Michigan House OKs $10M for wrongful imprisonment fund

    “No one who has served time in prison for a crime they didn’t commit should be denied the damages they are due because of a technicality,” Calley said in a press release Tuesday. “Now, people who were wrongfully convicted and imprisoned in Michigan will be able to seek compensation, so they can get back on their feet and pursue a brighter tomorrow.”

    Both House bills were reintroduced in October, as newer versions of Senate bills that failed to pass in the 2017-18 legislative session.

    Senate Bill 68, sponsored by state Sen. Paul Wojno (D-Warren) and originally introduced last January, specifies that the period of limitations for claims against the state would not apply to a claim for compensation under WICA.

    All three bills are tie-barred, meaning that none of the bills could be enacted unless the other two also went into effect.

    In May 2019, the state House unanimously approved legislation creating a one-time $10 million appropriation to the state’s exonerated prisoners fund. Whitmer signed the bill into law that month.

    Laina G. Stebbins
    Laina G. Stebbins covers the environment, civil rights and criminal justice. She is a graduate of Michigan State University’s School of Journalism, where she served as Founding Editor of The Tab Michigan State and as a reporter for the Capital News Service. When Laina is not writing or listening to podcasts, she loves art and design, discovering new music, being out in nature and spending time with her two very special cats.