BOSTON (WWLP) – A news conference at the Boston State House Monday took on the subject of wrongful convictions.

Those who were convicted of crimes they did not commit spoke on the State House steps on how the state has left them behind. Three bills on Beacon Hill would change the state’s Wrongful Conviction Compensation Laws.

Exonerees spoke about how hard it was to acclimate to the world after being locked up.

Dennis Maher was wrongfully convicted of aggravated rape, rape, and attempted rape and spent over 19 years in prison. DNA from the crime cleared him of any wrongdoings. He spoke on the challenges he faced, with things that may seem easy to everyday people, being difficult to a newly released exoneree.

“There was no internet, there was none of this, and this is what they have to understand that we have to go back and learn how to use all this stuff. If you had handed me this phone when I first got out I wouldn’t have known what to do with it,” Dennis Maher said.

Legislation on Beacon Hill will give exonerees assistance upon release to a total of $5,000. This will assist them with such things as buying clothes and finding a place to live.

“When people walk out, they have nothing. I’ve been involved in multiple GoFundMe efforts, where someone walked out with the clothing on their back and the only way they had any money to pay for food, let alone make a security deposit on an apartment was through strangers and through the kindness of strangers,” said Lisa Kavanaugh, Director at CBCS Innocence Program.

The Legislation will also provide exonerees with social service advocates and it also proposes removing the $1 million cap on compensation under current law.

All three bills have received a hearing and Lawmakers Monday were hopeful that this legislation might be able to reach the floor this session.

Local News

Ellen Fleming is a reporter at the Boston State House who has been a part of the 22News team since 2022. Follow Ellen on X @EllenFlem and view her bio to see more of her work.