PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Members of the House Judiciary Committee are once again considering legislation that would compensate people imprisoned after they were wrongfully convicted of a crime they didn’t commit.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Patricia Serpa, D-West Warwick, would provide those who have been exonerated with $50,000 for every year spent behind bars. It would require the exoneree to go before a judge to request the payment.
The legislation was approved by the House last year but didn’t get a floor vote in the Senate. Serpa is hopeful the bill will earn the support of both chambers during this legislative session.
“I think when someone’s been exonerated and proven to be innocent, society should be quick to award that person at least a portion of what he or she missed while they were in prison, and $50,000 a year is not a lot of money,” she said.
The bill was sparked by one of her constituents, Jeffrey Scott Hornoff, a former Warwick police officer who served more than six years of a life sentence for the 1989 murder of Victoria Cushman.
Hornoff had been having an affair with Cushman at the time but maintained his innocence. He was released from prison in 2002 after another man, Todd Barry, confessed to the crime. Since then, Hornoff has been pushing for Rhode Island to join 35 other states in implementing a law to compensate exonerees.
“People who commit crimes and are released on parole or probation actually receive more assistance than exonerees they receive job assistant housing assistance counseling,” he said Wednesday.
Hornoff settled with his former employer, the Warwick Police Department, for $600,000 in back pay which he said went to his attorneys and ex-wife, and he also receives a $60,000 per year disability pension.