For Victims Of Unjust Imprisonment, Budget Impasse Keeps Them Waiting

James Kluppelberg testifying at a senate hearing.

James Kluppelberg says he was freed with only the $14.70 he had in his prison account: "They opened the door and they said: 'Leave.'"

Brian Mackey/NPR Illinois

Illinois’ budget stalemate has held up compensation for people who’ve been unjustly imprisoned. But on Thursday, a bipartisan group of state senators took a step toward fixing that.

James Kluppelberg spent nearly 25 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. But freedom presented its own challenges.

“I had $14 and I believe 70-some cents on my prison account at the time,” Kluppelberg said Thursday at a Senate hearing. “They handed that to me, and they opened the door and they said: ‘Leave.’”

Illinois law does provide for the truly innocent to be compensated — after a complicated legal process.

Kluppelberg got his payment in 2014, but the lack of a budget means at least 18 more recent exonorees are still waiting.

Legislation pending in the Senate would make sure those debts are paid even without a full budget. On Thursday, Senate Bill 1993 was approved in committee with unanimous bipartisan support.

Story source: Illinois Public Radio