Florida lawmakers have called the bill an “automatic trigger” that will make it easier and quicker for those who unjustly lost their liberty to get a measure of financial compensation from the state. Instead of years of legal and political maneuvering to, as Gov. Charlie Crist has said, right a wrong, the legislation was designed to hasten and level the process. The state will pay $50,000 for every year spent in jail for a crime a person didn’t commit. But the Wrongful Incarceration Act, which Crist has said he will sign, may be loaded with just as many complexities as the legislative process it is to replace, reports the Tallahassee Democrat.
The cases of seven men released from Florida prisons after DNA evidence cleared them of their crimes show how the legislation may not simplify things. Five of the men aren’t eligible for the automatic provisions because they have prior felonies, contrary to the “clean-hands” requirement of the bill. Even the cases of the two who are eligible provide a glimpse of just how difficult things could be. That’s not what the bill was supposed to do. It was written to avoid the pitfalls of the claims system, the legislative act required to override the state’s sovereign immunity caps on any settlement larger than $200,000.