Feb. 11, 2020



House passes Serpa bill that would compensate those who have been wrongfully imprisoned


STATE HOUSE — The House of Representatives today passed legislation introduced by Rep. Patricia Serpa (D-Dist. 27, West Warwick, Coventry, Warwick) that would give compensation to innocent people who have spent time behind bars but later released when new evidence shows they were not guilty.

“When an innocent person is put in prison, they not only lose their freedom but their future, their plans, everything they might have been,” said Representative Serpa. “Once they are proven innocent, the task of re-entering society can be even more difficult than it is for those who rightfully paid for their crimes. Unlike those who are paroled, who have many services at their disposal, the innocent have nothing. They are left with no housing, no income, and no health care.”

Rhode Island in one of 17 states that does not compensate the wrongfully imprisoned. That would change with the legislation (2020-H 7086) Rep. Serpa has sponsored. The law would authorize any person who has been wrongfully sentenced to a term of imprisonment greater than one year to petition the presiding justice of Rhode Island Superior Court for an award of compensation and damages, including attorney’s fees.

“We as a society owe it to the wrongfully incarcerated to make up for the mistake we made in imprisoning them in the first place,” said Representative Serpa, who was contacted by a former Warwick police officer who spent six years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit. “We failed them when we slammed the cell door. This legislation will give us the opportunity to provide prompt and compassionate assistance to help make up for that mistake.”

Under the legislation, if the court found that the claimant was wrongfully incarcerated, it would grant an award of $50,000 for each year served in a correctional facility. For incarceration of less than a year, the amount would be prorated to 1/365 of $50,000 for every day served.

The award may be expanded to include compensation for any reasonable costs including housing, transportation, subsistence, re-integrative services, and mental and physical health care costs, along with reasonable attorney’s fees not to exceed $15,000.

“This is not only the right thing to do, but it’s an important step we need to take to ensure the integrity of our criminal justice system,” said Representative Serpa.

The measure now moves to the Senate for consideration.






For an electronic version of this and all press releases published by the Legislative Press and Public Information Bureau, please visit our Web site at www.rilegislature.gov/pressrelease.














The federal government will keep running at least into December. President Trump signed a bill overnight to fund the government through December 11th. The government formally ran out of money when the 2020 fiscal year ended at midnight. Congress will have to deal with the budget after the election during a lame duck session of Congress.       The next presidential debate in two weeks will be a lot more structured than what the world saw Tuesday night. The Commission on Presidential Debates said Wednesday it's clear changes are needed. CBS News reports the new rules will include cutting off a candidate's microphone if he ignores the format..       Former Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale is leaving the campaign after police detained him for threatening to harm himself. Over the weekend, Parscale's wife called police and said Parscale was armed and threatening to kill himself. Parscale was recently demoted to digital media director.        Nearly 30-thousand airline workers could be out of work this morning. American Airlines confirmed Wednesday it's letting 19-thousand people go and United is going to furlough 13-thousand employees.        Victims and families of the 2017 Las Vegas mass shooting are in line for a huge cash settlement. On Wednesday a judge approved a settlement calling for MGM Resorts International to pay 800-million-dollars to more than 44-hundred people. Today is the third anniversary of the attack that killed 58 people and wounded more than 800 at a country music festival on the Strip.        A large electronic mural honoring the late Congressman John Lewis is lighting up in Atlanta. The display that runs from today through Sunday coincides with Georgia's general election voter registration deadline, which comes up Monday.