Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Happy Tuesday and voting day for some!

So, a record turnout is expected for the second straight primary election. Problem is, we could reach a record low for today's runoff compared to record highs in the May 6 primary.

I was in Atlantic Beach this weekend for the debates. If you haven't seen them we are in the process of putting them on our Carolina Ondemand channel which you can get on Ch. 1234 on Time Warner Cable. I really think viewers can take a lot from both debates. I think the U.S. Senate candidates made a much stronger point to show clear differences between themselves. All four candidates appeared well prepared and had some great stories lined up to illustrate points.

Today, it's a busy one at the legislature and I'm just one man so the bosses wanted me to focus on a wrongly convicted compensation bill. Here's the script from my story.

RALEIGH -- The state could soon more than double the amount of money given to wrongfully convicted people.

Just in the past year, two people have been released from prison after new evidence found them innocent. Lawmakers are working on a bill that would help them find jobs as well.

Last summer DNA evidence cleared Dwayne Dail after serving nearly 20 years in prison for a rape that he did not commit.

"I can take this day and start my life now," Dail said the day he was released. "Today is the first day of the rest of my life and I'm absolutely going to make the most of it."

But getting that start can prove difficult after years behind bars. If the governor offers a pardon of innocence, those who are wrongfully convicted can get $20,000 for every year they spent in prison but no more than $500,000.

Tuesday a House committee voted to more than double that amount.

"When we have created the double injustice of not solving the crime we do great harm to society and the victim," Rep. Rick Glazier (D-Cumberland) said. "But this is dealing with the other harm, the person we have put in prison wrongfully and taken away years if not in some cases decades of their life."

The proposal offers $50,000 per year served in prison but no more than $750,000 total.

The idea of this bill goes beyond money. It's to help the people wrongfully convicted get back on their feet by offering a free education.

"If someone qualifies within ten years of their release for tuition and fees at a community college or constituent university campus if admitted," Rep. Glazier added.

It also offers at least one year of job skills training for those not interested in school. Just five people since 2001 qualified for the money so it won't create a big strain on state budgets, but it could have a huge impact on the lives of those who spent years in prison for crimes they did not commit.

The bill must still pass on the House floor and in the Senate. If it's approved there, the governor must sign the bill as well.

1 comment:

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