Man Wrongfully Jailed for 35 Years Pushes for Higher Compensation for Illinois Exonerees

Brian Beals is still adjusting to walking freely on public sidewalks.

He has been out of prison for 90 days after being found not guilty of a 1988 shooting that killed a 6-year-old kid and injured his mother in Englewood.

Beals, 22, was home for Thanksgiving vacation from college. But it would be 35 years before he was free again, and it takes time to adjust.

“I’m just trying to build a life. Trying to figure out how to manage the world as it exists now. “A little different than when I left,” Beals explained.

Beals is currently adjusting to life with a cell phone and the internet. When he went to prison, he was a collegiate athlete majoring in law enforcement. While inside, he taught other inmates to read, edited the prison newspaper, and co-wrote award-winning plays.

“I just saw how powerful it was to tell stories and the impact it had on guys,” Beals went on to say.

Man Wrongfully Jailed for 35 Years Pushes for Higher Compensation for Illinois Exonerees

In December, he walked out of the Robinson Correctional Center, hailed by family members and carrying a box containing all of his worldly things. He may be eligible for state compensation, but the maximum amount is $200,000.

It’s about supporting myself and attempting to have a life outside.

Beals went to Springfield to campaign for a law that would raise the ceiling to $2 million.

“It’s about supporting myself and trying to have a life out there,” Beals told reporters.
According to Beals’ attorney at the Illinois Innocence Project, Illinois has the highest number of exonerated convicts in the nation.

“When it comes to compensating people who’ve suffered, the survivors of wrongful conviction, we’re at the bottom,” said Lauren Kaeseberg of the Illinois Innocence Project.

The bill to boost pay has already passed the House overwhelmingly and is now in the Senate committee. Beals’ counsel said they will wait to see what happens with the bill before applying for his certificate of innocence.

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