- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 16, 2015

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Some men who were wrongfully convicted and imprisoned by the state of Wisconsin asked legislators Wednesday for more compensation.

Two legislative committees held hearings on a bill that would dramatically increase state compensation limits for wrongful convictions.

Wisconsin currently offers the wrongly convicted $5,000 for each year of incarceration up to $25,000. Under the bill, exonerees could collect $50,000 for every year behind bars with the total payout capped at $1 million. That limit would be adjusted for inflation every five years.

One of the four men testifying in favor of the bill was Fred Saecker, who was wrongfully convicted of rape and kidnapping in a 1989 incident, WKOW-TV (http://bit.ly/1QqNpSQ ) reported. Saecker was in prison until DNA evidence cleared him in 1996.

“I have seven years with no income and will probably have to work until 70, just to try to make up the difference,” Saecker said. “These events are not exclusive elements of my case.”

State Reps. Dale Kooyenga, R-Brookfield, and Gary Hebl, D-Sun Prairie, co-sponsored the bill, along with state Sen. Van Wanggaard, R-Racine.

“It is devastating and the least we can do as a state is compensate these folks for the loss of what they’ve experienced,” Hebl said.

The Senate judiciary committee and the Assembly government operations committee both held public hearings on the proposal.

The bill would establish the new compensation levels retroactive to Jan. 1, 1990. That means a number of the men who spoke out at the hearings would be eligible for more money if it passes.

According to the state Department of Employee Trust Funds, 55 people have applied to the state Claims Board for compensation for a wrongful conviction. Of those 19 have received money.

The bill would also provide access to transitional services such as job training and housing, as well as state health care coverage for those who have been exonerated.

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Information from: WKOW-TV, http://www.wkow.com

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