Colonial Church Pator Aaron Roberts and Kansas City, Kan., native Lamonte McIntyre are about the same age.
But their life experiences the past quarter-century could not have been more different.
As Roberts finished school, got married, started a family and took over leadership of his Prairie Village congregation, McIntyre sat in a prison cell — wrongly convicted of a crime he did not commit.
The two met shortly after McIntyre was released from prison after attorney finally succeeded in an eight-year effort to gain him freedom.
“One of the first things that really hit me, that hit me to the soul, was that I thought about everything that’s happened to me the past 23 years,” Roberts said. “I fell in love, started a career, had kids. That was all taken from him.”
Now, Roberts is helping organize an effort among Johnson and Wyandotte County faith leaders to push for a change to Kansas law so that wrongly convicted people will get some compensation for the time the state has taken from them. Under current Kansas law, McIntyre was entitled to no renumeration from a government that imprisoned him without cause.
Roberts announced the group of faith leaders’ intentions to pursue passage of a law at the Metro Organization for Racial and Economic Equality Public Meeting at All Soul’s Unitarian Church earlier this month.
He said initial response to the group’s efforts in support of a bill that would set a compensation structure for people who have spent time in prison for crimes they didn’t commit. But, Roberts said, Kansas’s budget issues are a hurdle.
“Nobody is going to argue against the principle of this kind of law, it’s just going to be people saying we can’t afford this,” Roberts said. “Those are the political realities it’s going to face.”
Still, the group says change is necessary to correct such injustice.
“He’s got nothing in savings for retirement,” Roberts said. “Nothing in wages to report. Let alone the fact that he missed 23 years of his life.”