The criminal justice system in Connecticut stole half of Kenneth Ireland's life. The least the state should do is compensate him for his searing loss of freedom in a timely manner.
But Mr. Ireland and others like him who have been wrongly convicted and put in prison for crimes they did not commit find that they must wait years for the compensation they need to help them make a go of it on the outside once they are cleared by the evidence.
Their damaged lives have been put on hold by an apparently uncaring, clogged and slothful system. The delay is a second injustice visited on innocent people by an all-powerful state. It must stop.
The Connecticut Innocence Fund, founded two years ago, was created to help the newly exonerated adjust to freedom. But what is most needed is swift, fair recompense by the state for the state's error.
Mr. Ireland went to prison at age 18 for the 1986 rape and slaying in Wallingford of Barbara Pelkey, a 30-year-old mother of four. He was freed in 2009 after serving 21 years when DNA tests pointed to another man. That man, Kevin Benefield, was convicted of the Pelkey murder in 2012 and is serving a 60-year sentence.
Mr. Ireland is now 44. His lawyer said when Mr. Ireland was in prison, he suffered "unspeakable violence," had a hand crushed, lost part of a finger, saw another inmate set on fire.
He filed a compensation claim years ago. It lingers.
The U.S. justice system is good, but it isn't perfect. Innocent people are sometimes convicted. But technology has cleared many. When justice triumphs in such cases, it shouldn't take years for the state to make amends.
Wrongly convicted, thrown into a hellish experience that endangers life and crushes the spirit, then made to wait for years for compensation even after exoneration — state officials should take a step in those shoes.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun