INDIANAPOLIS — Hoosiers wrongly convicted of crimes and sent to prison for years or decades before being exonerated by DNA or other evidence currently receive no compensation for the time stolen from their lives, unless they successfully sue the state.

State Rep. Greg Steuerwald, R-Avon, wants to change that.

He's proposed in House Bill 1150 awarding an exonerated inmate an automatic restitution payment of $50,000 for every year that they needlessly spent in the Indiana Department of Correction.

"This is a matter of fairness," Steuerwald said. "These people should never have been arrested, let alone convicted."

At least 34 exonerated individuals who collectively served 369 years in prison initially would be eligible for restitution at a cost to the state of $18.5 million, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency.

To qualify, however, those individuals would have to dismiss any pending civil lawsuits and waive all other claims against the state for their wrongful convictions.

Steuerwald's legislation was approved 13-0 Wednesday by the House Courts and Criminal Code Committee. Among those voting "yes" were state Reps. Lisa Beck, D-Hebron; and Ragen Hatcher, D-Gary.

It now goes to the House Ways and Means Committee for another panel of lawmakers to decide whether to appropriate the money required to cover the recommended restitution payments to current and future exonerees.

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