Last month, NCIP celebrated two legislative victories that will provide much needed support for exonerees post release.
The first bill, NCIP-sponsored Senate Bill (SB) 336, authored by Senator Joel Anderson, expands the eligibility of wrongfully convicted individuals to receive transitional services after their release from prison, including housing assistance, job training, and mental health services.
SB 336 was an amendment to Obie’s law, passed in 2015 (named after NCIP exoneree Obie Anthony), which, for the first time, provided transitional services for exonerees. However, the flaw in the legislation was that it made re-entry services available only if one’s conviction was reversed and innocence was established based on very narrow language: new evidence that “completely undermined the prosecution’s case and pointed unerringly to innocence.” This standard for reversal was so high that almost no innocence claims could succeed and therefore, Obie’s Law was rarely applied.
SB 336 amends this language to make re-entry services available to a wider group of exonerees. This bill was signed by the Governor on October 12.
The second bill, NCIP-supported Assembly Bill (AB) 454, authored by Assemblymember Sebastian Ridley-Thomas, exempts wrongfully convicted individuals from paying state income tax on any monetary awards they receive from the State of California due to their wrongful incarceration.
This bill makes California state law consistent with federal law which already exempts monetary awards received by exonerees from federal taxation. This bill was signed by the Governor on October 11.
These newly signed bills will go into effect on January 1, 2018.
We are grateful to the legislators who authored these important bills and for the strong bipartisan support provided by the legislature. We particularly want to acknowledge NCIP Staff Attorney & Policy Liaison, Melissa O’Connell, for her hard work and careful stewardship of these efforts.