Monday, July 29, 2013

The National Disgrace of How We Treat Exonerated Prisoners

You were wrongfully convicted for a crime you didn't commit, enduring pretty much the worst thing that can happen to a person. You spend years or decades in jail. Then, through some miracle, you find yourself exonerated. You're free to go. You're one of the lucky few wrongly-convicted prisoners to find justice.

What do you do then? You've lost a big chunk of your life, you're traumatized, you have trouble "catching up" to technology, and whenever you apply for a job you must mark "Yes" when asked whether you've been convicted of a felony. The profound blight on your record will always come up on web searches, you're flat broke, and nobody in the system has apologized...or will. In fact, many prosecutors refuse to even acknowledge exonerees.

There is nothing within our system to help, guide, or reintegrate exonerated prisoners. They reenter society with nearly all the same burdens as ex-felons. It's a national disgrace.

Three things you can do:

1. Watch a superb TV show fictionalizing one such situation. The short first season of "Rectify" just ended, and it's been renewed for a second. Catch it on the Sundance Channel, or occasional reruns on AMC, but be warned: it's a slow-paced, subtle, contemplative show. Don't expect 21st century pacing or lots of "action".

2. Listen to this informative 34 minute report from NPR's "Talk of the Nation" on this subject.

3. Join me in donating to Resurrection After Exoneration, a tiny, grass-roots group run entirely by exonerees that is pretty much the only place in the country these folks can turn to for support.

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