February 15, 2018

DISGRACE: Kansas wrongfully convicted these men. The state owes them more than an apology.

All told, they served 55 years. Floyd Bledsoe, Richard Jones and Lamonte McIntyre have an unfortunate bond, knowing what was taken from them and struggling now to find their footing as free, exonerated men.

Their losses are financial, familial and deeply personal.

McIntyre will testify that the day he entered prison as a teenager was the most terrifying of his life. As his peers were finishing high school and choosing career paths, McIntrye awoke worrying about the violence he would encounter each day, questioning how he would survive.

At 23, Bledsoe was earning $26,000 a year as a dairy farmer. He lost everything — the land, the livestock and opportunities to grow his business. Then, the legal costs to prove his innocence began to mount.

Prison robbed Jones of time with his two young daughters. He struggled with not being able to care for them financially or emotionally.

Like the other men, Jones is grateful for the community support he’s received, but he pointedly notes that everyone but the state of Kansas has been generous.

Kansas has paid them nothing.

Senate Bill 336 would provide $80,000 for each year served. The compensation mirrors Texas’ approach and is in line with other states. Colorado pays $70,000 for every year served, and Minnesota pays as much as $100,000. Kansas is one of 18 states with no compensation for the wrongfully convicted.

Honestly, it’s not enough. And there should be accountability for the wrongful convictions, too.

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