Thomas McGowan's journey from prison to prosperity is about to culminate in $1.8 million, and he knows just how to spend it: on a house with three bedrooms, stainless steel kitchen appliances and a washer and dryer.
"I'll let my girlfriend pick out the rest," said McGowan, who was exonerated last year based on DNA evidence after spending nearly 23 years in prison for rape and robbery.
He and other exonerees in Texas, which leads the nation in freeing the wrongly convicted, soon will become instant millionaires under a new state law that took effect this week.
Exonerees will get $80,000 for each year they spent behind bars. The compensation also includes lifetime annuity payments that for most of the wrongly convicted are worth between $40,000 and $50,000 a year — making it by far the nation's most generous package. ...
Exonerees also receive an array of social services, including job training, tuition credits and access to medical and dental treatment. Though 27 other states have some form of compensation law for the wrongly convicted, none comes close to offering the social services and money Texas provides.
The annuity payments are especially popular among exonerees, who acknowledge their lack of experience in managing personal finances. A social worker who meets with the exonerees is setting them up with financial advisers and has led discussions alerting them to swindlers.
The annuities are "a way to guarantee these guys ... payments for life as long as they follow the law," said Kevin Glasheen, a Lubbock attorney representing a dozen exonerees.
UPDATE: Even the Cato Institute, the notoriously thrifty libertarian think tank, considers this "good spending" and declares that, "Other states should follow suit. Inaction is inexcusable." That's pretty darn cool! I'm not sure I've ever seen them suggest more spending on anything! The Cato Institute is much more reliably a source of suggestions for budget cuts.