State prison
Oregon will join other states in offering compensation to those who have been wrongfully convicted of crimes and spent time in jail, on probation and on the se offender registry. (File photo by Salem Reporter)

Wrongfully convicted Oregonians will now be eligible for financial compensation for time of false imprisonment. 

On March 24, Gov. Kate Brown signed the Oregon Justice for Exonerees Act, which allows compensation for wrongful convictions. Victims will be able to receive money, housing assistance, counseling, a sealing of their records and a clear name. 

Previously, Oregon was one of 13 states that did not offer any compensation for lost income and educational and career advancement to wrongfully convicted residents. Those who had their convictions overturned, and who were interested in getting compensation, were forced to file civil lawsuits that could take several years to resolve at personal and taxpayer expense. 

The act will pay $65,000 for each year of wrongful conviction and $25,000 per year of parole and supervision and each year an individual was wrongfully put on the sex offender registry. 

Housing assistance, legal counseling and financial literacy assistance will also be offered. Those who were wrongfully convicted will have their records sealed and be provided a certificate of innocence. 

As of March 1, there were just over 12,000 adults in Oregon jails, according to the state’s Department of Corrections. 

An estimated 13 Oregonians could be immediately eligible for benefits under the new law, according to the Oregon Innocence Coalition, a group made up of the legal and advocacy groups Oregon Innocence Project and the Forensic Justice Project. 

One such example is Earl Bain, who was convicted of sex abuse by a non-unanimous jury in 2009 in Malheur County. There were no witnesses or physical evidence in the case. In 2015, the complainant, who was 7-years old at the time of the conviction, recanted her story, saying the crime never happened. Bain spent 11 years in jail before he received a rare pardon from Brown in 2020, but he did not receive any compensation for the years he spent in jail, on parole, on the sex offender registry or for the money he spent on legal fees trying to clear his name. 

In a statement, Bain said, “While no amount of money could ever make up for the time I lost, this will help me and other innocent Oregonians provide for our families and restart our lives.”

The law was passed unanimously in the House and Senate in the past session, with support from the state’s Department of Justice, the Oregon chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and the Multnomah County District Attorney’s office. 

Oregon Capital Chronicle is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Oregon Capital Chronicle maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Les Zaitz for questions: Follow Oregon Capital Chronicle on Facebook and Twitter.

Alex Baumhardt, Oregon Capital Chronicle

Alex Baumhardt has been a national radio producer focusing on education for American Public Media since 2017. She has reported from the Arctic to the Antarctic for national and international media, and from Minnesota and Oregon for The Washington Post. She previously worked in Iceland and Qatar and was a Fulbright scholar in Spain where she earned a master's degree in digital media. She's been a kayaking guide in Alaska, farmed on four continents and worked the night shift at several bakeries to support her reporting along the way.