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Ray Dall’Osto Testifies on Behalf of The State Bar of Wisconsin

Ray Dall'Osto Testimony

On December 20, 2017, Ray Dall’Osto appeared before the Assembly Committee on State Affairs, along with bill co-sponsors Rep. Kooyenga and Hebl, in support of AB 548. PIX Dall’Osto gave testimony on behalf of the State Bar of Wisconsin, urging legislators to enact AB 548, which would substantially increase compensation to exonerated persons for their past wrongful incarceration. Current Wisconsin law provides the lowest compensation rate in the country, i.e., $5,000 per year of incarceration, up to a maximum of $25,000. AB 548 would provide $50,000 per year of incarceration, up to $1 million.

Here is a portion of Ray's testimony to the Assembly Committee

I have been working as a lawyer in the criminal law field around this state for more than forty years, and I speak from experience and from the heart. People can be wrongly charged, and yes, wrongly convicted and sent to prison for crimes they did not commit. This is a fact. While the various components of the criminal justice system strive to ensure that wrongful convictions do not occur, it is a human system and mistakes do happen. Recognition of this reality and providing a more adequate compensation structure to help an exonerated person get back on his or her feet upon is a critical need in this state. The current statutory structure does not do this, and also does not provide for basic transitional services to help an exonerated person cope with the challenges faced upon release.

The time has come to recognize that people who have been wrongly convicted and exonerated should receive compensation well beyond the current statutory maximum of $25,000. AB 548 provides for such and the Legislature should approve this bill. BILL This is not a question of just money, but of providing the means and tools for a person to retrain themselves and better reintegrate into society. The changes called for in AB 548 are in the interests of all of society, not dissimilar to providing compensation for injured workers.

The chart prepared by the Wisconsin Innocence Project on other state’s comparable laws shows the sharp differential with Wisconsin’s current extremely low maximum. CHART AB 548 would increase the current compensation allowed of $5,000 per year, up to a maximum of $25,000, to $50,000 per year, up to a maximum compensation total of $1 million. It is time for Wisconsin to amend and increase its exonerated person compensation law so that it actually provides adequate compensation more in line with what other states and the federal compensation laws provide and also real transitional assistance. The numbers in AB 548 are also consistent with Bureau of Labor Statistics average annual wage earnings for persons without a college degree, which amounts to what a wrongfully incarcerated individual would likely have earned had he or she not been in prison, not including social security and/or retirement plan contributions. The proposed $50,000 per year is a sound number necessary to help and exonerated person get back into society. AB 548 is a significant step in the right direction, and I urge passage of AB 548 by the Assembly and the Senate.

The Committee recommended approval of AB 548 and it has gone to the Assembly for a full vote on the bill. Ray encourages readers of this to contact their state representatives and senators and urge them to vote in favor of AB 548. It is a matter of simple justice.

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