Folsom's 93

The Lives and Crimes of Folsom Prison's Executed Men


You’ve Just Been Exonerated . . . Now What Are You Going To Do?

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.”

–Robert Dewey

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.


A Ridiculous Understatement

On Tuesday, Timothy Masters, who spent nearly 10 years of a life sentence behind bars was finally exonerated for a 1987 murder he did not commit. Thanks to DNA testing (and a great deal of perseverance) he is a free man. This happened in the city in which I live. In regards to the case, District Attorney, Larry Abrahamson said, “America has the best criminal justice system in the world; however, no system is perfect.” Well there’s an understatement.

The best criminal justice system in the world?! We certainly have the largest, and most overcrowded. I read his quote in the paper this morning and I have thought about it all the day. Perhaps he was referring to the rights Americans have, in which case, I wholeheartedly agree. I love living in a country where its citizens cannot be persecuted for their religious, political and sexual preferences; that we have access to the law and the right to a trial, etc., but imperfection continues to run deep within this system.  So is it really the best in the world?

If we had the best criminal justice system in the world . . .

  • Prisons wouldn’t be at a 200% capacity
  • The U.S. Supreme Court wouldn’t have deemed California prisons as “cruel and unusual punishment,” a violation of the 8th Amendment
  • Inmates, both male and female, wouldn’t be getting raped everyday
  • The U.S. wouldn’t have the highest incarceration rate in the world
  • Prisons like Folsom wouldn’t have a 70% recidivism rate

If we had the best criminal justice system in the world . . .innocent people wouldn’t be executed. The list goes on and on.

Is the U.S. criminal justice system as good as its gets? Should I just shut up and appreciate we have what we have and accept these imperfections?

Quotes like this, especially from those in the field, merely shows the public that there is nothing wrong with the system—only that it’s not “perfect.” Until lawmakers start acknowledging the problems, our penal system will continue to be far from perfect.

You can read about Tim Masters and his case HERE.