While we don't have any polling on the issue of compensation for exonerees, every time I talk to an average person, Floridian or otherwise, about what the Innocence Project does and how much torment these innocent individuals endure, their general response is, "if this person spent 24 years in prison for a crime they didn't commit, doesn't the state provide them any restitution?" And to their utter amazement, the answer in
The editorials that appeared in the last week urging key Florida governmental officials to pass a comprehensive compensation scheme in 2008, are just a representation of the overall feeling in the general public on this issue.
We certainly appreciate the words of support from leaders of the Florida Senate and the Governor, but words alone don't pass legislation nor do they provide much consolation to innocent men who have missed their mother's funeral or their children growing up while they were wrongfully incarcerated. It provides little solace to men who had to fight like hell for decades just to have their protestations of innocence heard only now to have to fight just as hard in the free world to get the state to simply acknowledge through payment that they often get it wrong.
Words alone are not enough. What is so sorely needed is action. This is the fourth year that the Innocence Project of Florida is pushing a comprehensive compensation bill. How many more years must exonerees wait? How many more governors , Senate Presidents, or Speakers of the House must enter and exit the doors of Florida government before real leadership is shown on this important issue of human rights? At what point will the governmental gatekeepers give the proper financial recompense to these men so they can begin to look forward to the rest of their freedom instead of having it continually ruined by having to relive the hell of wrongful incarceration every minute of every day?
It is my hope that this is the year it happens for Al Crotzer, the others devastated by state action who are also waiting, and those who will absolutely come after them. This hope is, unfortunately, dependent on others who hold the power to make it happen. With any luck these decision-makers will realize that the public is ahead of them in realizing that compensating those who we wrongfully incarcerate in the public's name is a moral imperative. With any luck, 2008 will be the year where actions back up words and the waiting which seems endless, finally ends.