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Exonerated sex offenders struggle to find financial compensation

New DNA technology used in Wisconsin police departments and law enforcement agencies nationwide has led to the exoneration of many innocent people who were previously charged and convicted of a sex crime. While Americans put their trust in the judicial system to keep the streets clear of dangerous criminals, innocent people are sometimes wrongfully convicted of crimes that they didn’t commit. Once they are finally freed, many are left to fend for themselves, without a proper support system.

In one case, a Chicago man was wrongfully imprisoned for 9 years for the second-degree sexual assault and rape of a student attending the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. After 8 years of multiple appeals and denials, the man was finally set free in 2007.

While people who are wrongfully imprisoned for sex crimes may be offered a monetary settlement compensating them for the years of their life that they lost in prison, it can take an average of 3 to 7 years for them to actually receive the funds. Some, however, never receive financial compensation. The Chicago man received a modest check of $14 a week after his release.

The man filed a claim with the Claims Board seeking compensation for time lost. Wisconsin officials denied his claim in 2009, stating that the system needed proof that he was in fact innocent of the original allegations of sexual assault. Today, the former prisoner is attending law school and is employed by the federal public defender’s office.

When an innocent person is charged and convicted of a serious sex crime, it can cause significant emotional trauma, financial hardship and irreversible damage to their reputation. Those who partner with an established criminal defense attorney may be able to find relief and the compensation that they rightfully deserve.

Source: USA Today, “Many wrongfully convicted are simply on their own,” Yamiche Alcindor, May 5, 2014.

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