This Article identifies the shortcomings in the American justice system relating to the inadequate compensation for innocent individuals wrongfully imprisoned for crimes they did not commit and for which they were later exonerated. Fairness and justice is considered a cornerstone of the justice system and the Authors contend that a just government cannot deny its citizens of life, liberty, or property without adequate compensation. Studies cited conclude that hundreds of individuals were exonerated after spending decades in prison for crimes they did not commit. The number of similar cases is on the rise due to advances in DNA testing.

While imprisoned, those wrongfully incarcerated suffered a significant amount of “lost opportunity costs” related to livelihood, physical and emotional well-being, and personal relationships lost during incarceration. Additionally, when exonerated, they struggle to find housing and work, and are in need of services. The Authors assert that society is morally obligated to financially compensate and provide services to those wrongfully imprisoned and suggest that states without compensation statutes adopt one. The Authors surveyed existing statutes and findings and report on the statutes’ provisions including requirements for eligibility and limitation, issuance of declaration of innocence, methods of exoneration, procedure for bringing compensation claims, and calculation of awards, including burden of proof in demonstrating damages. The Article sets out in detail a preliminary framework for a proposed statute.