Blacks exonerees get less money and many exonerees get nothing
By Frederick H. Lowe
State and local governments and the courts have paid wrongfully convicted men and women more than $2.2 billion in compensation, including $537 million in statutory awards and $1.7 billion to settle judgments and civil suits, but less money or sometimes nothing at all is given to innocent black defendants who comprise the majority of the wrongfully convicted.
Beginning in 1989 when the National Registry of Exonerations began keeping records to August 29, 2018, the most-recent end date, the registry reported that 2,265 people they are aware of have been exonerated after serving time in prison for crimes they did not commit.
Officials admit they don’t know everyone who has been exonerated but they are working to find them. “We keep finding them when we have time to look—and the vast majority of false convictions are never recognized at all,” the Registry reported.
On average, the exonerated spend 8 years and 10 months behind bars. African-American exonerees spend a longer time behind bars—-an average of 10.7 years in prison, 45% more than white exonerees who averaged 7.4 years of incarceration.
This pattern holds for each major category of crime for which exonerees are convicted.
African Americans are greatly over-represented among innocent defendants who have been exonerated, and even more so for time spent for crimes they did not commit.
Blacks are 12% of the population, but represent 46 percent of exonerees and 56% of all lost years served by exonerated defendants,” the Registry reported.
Innocent black inmates served the majority of the 2o,080 years unjustly in prison. Black inmates received an average of $200,000 per year for incarceration compared to $332,000 for white exonerees.
Only 44 percent of exonerees receive compensation; fifty-six percent don’t receive anything, the National Registry of Exonerations reported.
The is not just a story about numbers. It’s about lost lives. Time lost away from friends, family, friends, careers and work.
The longest serving exoneree is Richard Phillips who spent 45 years and two months in prison for a 1971 murder in Detroit he didn’t commit.
Wayne County, Michigan, prosecutor, Kym Worthy, ruled that Phillips did not have anything to do with the 1971 murder of Gregory Harris. He was the first person exonerated by the Wayne County Prosecuting Attorney’s new Conviction Integrity Unit.
While in prison, he refused to sign a plea agreement, admitting to the crime. When he was released in 2017, it was just before he celebrated his 72nd birthday.
His children were two and four when he was convicted. When he was released, he had not seen them in 45 years. He said he wants to reunite with his children, but he hasn’t heard from them and he doesn’t know where they live.
The National Registry of Exonerations is based at the University of California in Irvine.