How much is 18 years in prison worth?

Update: More from The Courant:

“We’re asking for $5 million, which we think is reasonable under the circumstances given the potential for litigation and the injuries James has suffered,” Smyth said. “It’s a substantial amount of money, but he lost the prime years of his life and we think it’s fair to him and to the state.”Smyth said the $500,000 tax-free payment Rell offered as reparation last week amounts to about $27,700 for each year Tillman was imprisoned. The prevailing rule of thumb in such settlements, Smyth said, it about $1 million for each year of incarceration.


Original Post:
James Tillman, recently exonerated after spending 18 years in prison for a crime he did not commit was offered $500,000 by the Governor during her recent budget address. Tillman, though appearing thankful at the time, also made the comment that he’d have to talk to his lawyer about whether to accept the offer.

Talk to his lawyer he did. He is now seeking ten times that amount: $5 million dollars in damages. His attorney, Gerard Smyth said that $500K is not enough to compensate for that lost time.

Is it? How does one put a monetary value on the number of years spent in prison when you should have been living free in society? Anyone have any ideas on a good way to come to a dollar amount?

As per this General Assembly study, the estimated cost per year per inmate is $35,000. The state has spent (approx.) $630,000 on Tillman’s incarceration thus far.

Meanwhile, in 2005, the median personal income of full-time workers aged 25 and above was $39, 509. The median income of African-American full-time workers aged 25 and above was $32, 021. Over 18 years (and yes, I’m not taking into account AAV/inflation), the range of what Tillman reasonably might have earned were he employed full-time was $576,378 – $711,162. Then you have to add in the intangible costs – the excruciating existence in prison, the emotional and societal anguish…

$500K may be on the lower end of what they should offer. Feel free to offer up your own thoughts.

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