Medicaid, SNAP Benefits Could Be Expanded in One State

Delaware is looking to expand its Medicaid and SNAP benefits to support those who were wrongfully imprisoned.

For those convicted of crimes they didn’t commit, navigating life within and after prison can bring unforeseen challenges. Depending on what state you’re in, you may receive no compensation for the time lost behind bars. You also may find yourself up against obstacles when trying to secure Medicaid and SNAP benefits after so many years out of the workforce.

But now Delaware, which is one of 13 states that offer no compensation for a wrongful conviction, is hoping to reverse some of the challenges for prisoners entering society after a wrongful conviction with Senate Bill 169.

Chester County Prison on September 10, 2023, in West Chester, Pennsylvania. In Delaware, a new bill would mean those wrongfully imprisoned receive compensation and easier access to Medicaid and SNAP.

Mark Makela/Getty Images

The bipartisan law would compensate those who saw their convictions overturned and offer them an emergency stipend as well as housing in a community corrections center. There’d also be easy access to general assistance funds, Medicaid and SNAP while their claims for compensation are in the approval process.

The bill has been passed in Delaware’s Senate and House and awaits approval by Governor John Carney.

“It’s a step in the right direction,” Alex Beene, a financial literacy instructor at the University of Tennessee at Martin, told Newsweek.

“For decades, the response to those wrongfully accused of illegal activity has been to release them, say, ‘We’re sorry,’ and then potentially deal with future legal action if the individual released feels their case was mishandled. Now, we have states who are actively looking for ways to compensate those who find themselves in these unfortunate situations.”

The other states that currently do not provide compensation for wrongful imprisonment are Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota and Wyoming.

For those states that permit you to get compensation for wrongful imprisonment, you often are required to show that the state committed some kind of constitutional misconduct. This could be like the police withholding evidence or denying a suspect their rights.

The exact amount those wrongfully convicted receive varies by state. Some states like New York have no limit, while California can pay out a maximum of $140 per day you were wrongfully imprisoned.

In Mississippi, you’ll see $50,000 per year you spent in prison with a $500,000 maximum. Other states have far lower caps, like Wisconsin’s $25,000.

The lack of support in Delaware has persisted for years, even as new DNA technology exonerates people who have spent the majority of their lives behind bars.

Beene said wrongful incarceration often results not only in lost financial resources but also in long-term discrimination after release.

“Extending Medicaid and SNAP benefits can go a long way in ensuring those released not only get compensated for the time spent behind bars, but also have a financial foundation they can start to build on after their release,” Beene said.