"Clean hands" ruins Florida bill to compensate wrongly imprisoned

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ISSUE: Wrongly imprisoned

to get compensation.

Florida's Legislature tried to do the right thing. They just couldn't bring themselves to do it in the right way.

Thus, the Legislature approved automatic compensation for those sentenced to prison for crimes they did not commit. The bill would allow for reparations of $50,000 for every year unjustly spent behind bars.

That is fair and proper — until you get to the "clean hands" provision.

In essence, anyone with a prior felony conviction isn't eligible for the automatic payment, which makes no sense. The reparations are meant to make up in a limited, monetary way for people being unjustly imprisoned. The fact they might have committed an unrelated felony 20 years earlier should have no bearing on compensation they get for being sent to prison for a crime they did not commit.

This is supposed to be justice, but it isn't for those people who have already paid their debt to society for crimes committed many years ago, and then were unjustly convicted and did more prison time for something they did not do.

As pointed out in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, this would be particularly cruel for people like Larry Bostic of Lauderhill, who was convicted in 1988 of raping a Fort Lauderdale woman at knifepoint. DNA evidence proved Bostic innocent after he spent 19 years in prison.

However, he had four prior felony convictions, so the "clean hands" provision disqualifies him from automatic compensation. That's patently unjust, as it is for seven of the nine Floridians who have been freed by DNA evidence but wouldn't qualify for automatic reparations because of previous misdeeds.

Those who can't qualify for reparations because of "clean hands" can file a claims bill with the Legislature, but many have neither the means nor the time to do so.

These are people who paid their debt to society, then grossly overpaid their debt by being wrongfully incarcerated. The Legislature got it half right with reparations. They need to get rid of "clean hands" to do it properly.

BOTTOM LINE: "Clean hands" provision should be removed.

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