DENVER (CBS4)– A man who spent nearly two decades behind bars for a crime he didn’t commit could get some compensation from the State of Colorado.
State lawmakers introduced a bill they said would “right a wrong.”
The compensation would be based on how long that person served behind bars with a cap of $100,000 a year.
The legislation was inspired by Robert Dewey who was wrongly convicted of rape and murder. Dewey was sentenced to life in prison but was cleared by DNA evidence 18 years later.
“It’s been hard out here, man,” said Dewey. “It’s pretty messed up.”
Dewey said it is hard to be released into a world you no longer recognize.
“Don’t know nothing about cell phones, never used one, never had one,” said Dewey.
When Dewey walked out of prison in July 2012, a friend of his gave him a bike, his girlfriend gave him a place to live and the State of Colorado gave him $49 a month in food stamps.
“The State of Colorado must make this right,” said Rep. Dan Pabon, a Democrat representing
State lawmakers said they can and should do more. They introduced a bill that would compensate those wrongly convicted; $70,000 for each year they serve, another $50,000 for each year on death row and $25,000 for each year on parole.
“The wrongly convicted should not have only have to rely on the kindness of others and the clothes on their back,” said Rep. Angela Williams, a Democrat representing Denver.
“Being locked up all the time you miss out on a lot of things. My only child died. I didn’t get to bury him,” said Dewey.
Sen. Lucia Guzman said the state can do better than an apology. The Democrat representing Denver said this may be the most important bill she may ever attach her name to.
“If we do anything to right this system, to make it more just, that would be the legacy that I would want to leave in the Senate,” said Guzman.
Guzman said the basic act of freeing an innocent man isn’t justice when he still has to pay.
“I have no future without this bill and anybody else who comes after me,” said Dewey.
If approved the legislation would also provide free health care, education, counseling and job training. It would also allow the person’s criminal record to be expunged.
Twenty-seven other states have passed similar laws.