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New Legislation Aimed At Helping Those Who Are Wrongly Imprisoned

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Robert Dewey (credit: CBS)

Robert Dewey (credit: CBS)

DENVER (CBS4) – An effort is under way to change Colorado law and make it so that people who wrongfully imprisoned get adequately compensated for the time they had to spend behind bars.

Such a law would help people like Robert Dewey, who was cleared last spring after DNA evidence proved he didn’t rape and murder a woman in 1994. Dewey spent 18 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit.

Dewey was sentenced for life and therefore wasn’t eligible for job training and wasn’t even allowed to use a computer. On April 30 when a judge declared him a free man he walked out of prison and into a world he no longer recognized.

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Dewey will tell you it’s the little things — the things most people take for granted — that you miss the most when you’re behind bars.

“I don’t have to ask permission or push a button to get my door unlocked,” he told CBS4 on Tuesday.

And yet in some ways he’s still paying.

“It’s like, ‘Where do you go? What do you do? Where do you start?’ ” he said.

A buddy gave Dewey a motorcycle and his girlfriend is providing a place for him to live. The state is providing $49 a month in food stamps. It’s definitely fair to say he’s struggling to start over.

“It’s mind boggling — the technology you have to deal with and try to learn,” the 51-year-old said.

State Rep. Angela Williams says it’s time the state stepped up.

“There’s been an injustice being done here,” she said.

She’s sponsoring legislation that would provide at least $50,000 a year for each year the state took. She said that’s the median income for a man his age.

If approved, the legislation would also provide free health care, education and counseling.

Williams says she is working with the Joint Budget Committee on coming up with the money.

A total of 27 other states have approved similar measures.

Dewey told CBS4 it’s “always hard for me to accept anything from anybody” but he said there’s one thing he would really like to do. His only child died while he was in prison and is buried out of state.

“I haven’t even been able to go see my son’s gravesite yet,” he said.

You can’t give back 18 years, but Dewey says he would like more than an apology.

“I’m just asking for it to be right. They took everything,” he said.

LINK: The Innocence Project

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