Kansas’ wrongful conviction compensation law called model for the nation

KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- A new law that provides compensation for those wrongly convicted of a crime is being called a model for the nation.

Gov. Jeff Colyer signed the law Tuesday at the Mount Zion Church of God.

This is Lamonte McIntyre's church. Kansas released McIntyre from prison last year after he spent 23 years behind bars for a crime he did not commit.

"I can’t tell you how excited I am about this," McIntyre said of the new law. "This is a moment."

The law seeks to provide a foundation for innocent people like McIntyre and Floyd Bledsoe to rejoin society.

Those who have been wrongly incarcerated now can receive $65,000 a year for every year they spent in prison. For Bledsoe, who spent 16 years in prison on wrongful convictions of murder, kidnapping and indecent liberties, that's more than $1 milllion.

"It's not like a lottery; I gotta live," McIntyre explained. "I just want to be able to live and take care of my mom. ... I got businesses I want to start, and things I want to do with my life."

They also get health care, tuition assistance and help finding a place to live.

But perhaps most importantly, those who qualify receive a certificate of innocence from the state and all criminal records tied to the improper conviction must be expunged.

"What we’ve done is wrong, let’s change it," Bledsoe said. "Let's make amends. Let's be who we say we are. An advocate for those who have been wronged. Laws are there to protect people. Why not make laws to protect the people who have been wronged."

The law also includes protections for taxpayers. If someone who has been wrongly convicted sues the state and receives a financial judgment, benefits from the new law are reduced by the amount of the court award.

Although the benefits begin now, the law retroactively covers anyone who's been released from prison after having their conviction overturned.