Two men leave a prison. One’s been released on parole, the other was exonerated. One has a $100 debit card, a job lined up, and a room at a halfway house. The other man has empty pockets, is unemployed, and hopefully some friends or family to give him a place to sleep.
As you might have guessed, the parolee has the money, the job, and the place to sleep. I suppose for the man exonerated, his freedom and a cleared record is all he can ask for, but what if that’s all he has? I came across this article regarding compensating those exonerated. Unless it was proven that misconduct occurred during trial, the accused cannot sue or receive damages from their wrongful incarceration—at least not in twenty-three states. The article focused on Robert Dewey, released from a Grand Junction, Colo., prison after serving 17 years for murder. “All I got was an apology.” Dewey has little family to rely on and is struggling to survive on food stamps. What’s more, he cannot work due to a back injury he sustained in prison. He also couldn’t receive job training in prison because of his life-without-parole sentence.
“I couldn’t take computer classes or anything else to better myself. Life without parole meant my ‘out date’ was 1,000 years in the future. They weren’t going to teach me skills I could use on the outside.”
The Innocence Project, other advocacy groups, and prosecutors across the country, are pushing for compensation laws, as well as funds for job-training, counseling, affordable housing, and health services. For more on Robert Dewey and the other 292 exonerated individuals, visit The Innocence Project.
July 10, 2012 at 4:53 pm
I think that is so ridiculous. I know that when Anthony Graves was freed from death row, they weren’t going to give him any money on a technicality. What is the cost of robbing someone of their life? In my book, it’s a lot.
July 15, 2012 at 1:52 pm
This is insane! Someone who was guilty of a crime gets help and support and the one found innocent gets nothing? Sometimes tons of red tape and laws get in the way of common sense. Thanks for posting about this. It shows just how important (and needed) groups like The Innocence Project are.
July 19, 2012 at 8:03 pm
Hi April — somehow I missed signing up for e-mail notices of your posts so missed this. I’ve signed up now. Anyway, there have been so many unbelievable stories of wrongfully imprisoned men and women suddenly released with little more than a handshake. How does a person ever recover from that?