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Revised Watson Coleman & Johnson Bill to Increase Assistance for Wrongfully Convicted and Imprisoned Residents Gets Final Legislative OK

(TRENTON) – Revised legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Bonnie Watson Coleman and Gordon Johnson to increase the amount of compensation awarded to those wrongfully convicted and imprisoned and provide for additional services for such persons was approved 75-5 Thursday by the Assembly, again giving it final legislative approval.
The bill was passed by the Legislature in March, but conditionally vetoed by the governor. The revised bill now heads back to the governor for consideration again.
“Those who have suffered through wrongful imprisonment deserve reasonable and adequate compensation that is up-to-date with current standards,” said Watson Coleman (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). “We haven’t updated this law in 16 years, so it’s past time we do it to ensure we can help these people who endured a real-life nightmare.”
“This is a reasonable bill to help those who in some cases have lost years of their lives through no fault of their own,” said Johnson (D-Bergen). “If someone is wrongfully convicted and sent to jail, then that person should get appropriate compensation and help to start rebuilding their lives.”
The bill (A-1640/3066) increases the statutory damage amounts awarded in lawsuits that may be brought by a person convicted and imprisoned for a crime which the person did not commit.
Under current law, damages cannot exceed twice the amount of the claimant’s income in the year before the incarceration or $20,000 for each year of incarceration, whichever is greater.
The bill increases the amount per year of incarceration to $50,000 per year.

A claimant may also be awarded other non-monetary relief, including vocational training, tuition assistance, counseling, housing assistance and health insurance coverage as appropriate.