Oct. 14, 2022

HARRISBURG – The House Judiciary Committee held a public hearing Wednesday on a bill sponsored by Rep. Frank Ryan (R-Lebanon), which would streamline the process for individuals wrongly convicted of felony crimes and incarcerated to seek compensation.

 “We sometimes hear about mistakes in our criminal justice system whereby individuals are wrongly convicted and spend time in prison,” said Ryan. “This is devastating for those individuals and their families. While nothing can replace the time and freedoms lost, my bill would permit such individuals to receive compensation to help them recover what they lost.”

At the hearing, Kathleen Lucus, representing Pennsylvanians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, said there have been 11 people in Pennsylvania who were sentenced to death and later exonerated. She said wrongful incarceration is crushing for the accused and their loved ones. She said it not only deprives these individuals of their freedom, families, and ability to earn a living, but when they are released, they have no money or skills, and they are living in a vastly different world than the one they knew before. Further, there are no services available to help support and guide them. She said Ryan’s legislation is the best opportunity yet to address this.

Anyone seeking relief under House Bill 2794 must show by a preponderance of the evidence that they:
Were convicted of a felony.
Were sentenced to incarceration based on the conviction and they have served any part of their sentence.
Did not commit the crime that resulted in the conviction or there was no crime committed.
Received a pardon, had the charges dismissed following reversal, or were acquitted upon retrial after the conviction was reversed or overturned.
Were not convicted of a lesser offense connected to the same crime for which they were originally convicted.

“If an individual meets the criteria in my bill, they would be awarded damages, based on the time spent in prison and on parole as a result of the wrongful conviction,” said Ryan. “In addition to monetary damages, it would include any child support they may have incurred while incarcerated, reasonable attorney fees, and compensation for any reasonable reintegrative services and mental and physical health care costs incurred. In fact, my bill also provides for various services, resources, and assistance for these individuals, regardless of whether they are seeking compensation.”

“More than 30 states provide some type of payment or compensation to wrongfully incarcerated people who have been exonerated,” said Ryan. “I believe Pennsylvania citizens in this situation deserve no less.”

Representative Frank Ryan
101st Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Media Contact: Donna Pinkham
RepFrankRyan.com / Facebook.com/RepFrankRyan