What Happens to Innocent People After They Are Set Free?
Date:  01-25-2017

New book follows exonerees as they leave prison and are thrust out into an unwelcoming world
From Truthout:

The following is an excerpt from Exoneree Diaries: The Fight for Innocence, Independence, and Identity by Allison Flowers:

This book gives a name to those who do not have one: exoneree.

The word doesn't exist. No dictionary I have found, other than online references such as an English Wiktionary, lists exoneree. We have the words exoneration, exonerate, exonerated -- but no word for the people freed from prison, innocent of the crimes that sent them there.

The age of mass incarceration has taken many prisoners -- not just those behind bars. Families and friends are affected by the loss, as are neighborhoods and communities. More than 2.3 million people are held in thousands of state and federal prisons, jails, and juvenile correctional facilities, as well as military prisons, immigration detention facilities, civil commitment centers, and prisons in the US territories. In a country that locks up more people, per capita, than any other in the world, many systemic abuses of citizens exist. Wrongly convicted men and women are inevitably caught in the dragnet. An exoneration happens, on average, every three days in America, a record high. While it is impossible to know how many innocents are languishing behind bars, according to the Innocence Project, studies estimate that between 2.3 percent and 5 percent of all prisoners in the United States did not commit the crimes of which they have been accused -- tens of thousands of people. However, formerly incarcerated people, including exonerees, will tell you they believe the actual number is significantly higher. They would know. Alongside those falsely convicted are the multitudes who have accepted plea bargains. This applies in more than 90 percent of cases, as the accused plead guilty to lesser offenses in exchange for more lenient sentences -- or, in some cases, so they can leave county jail and continue on with their lives, unable to post bond. In 2015 alone, sixty-five exonerations were for convictions based on guilty pleas, more than in any previous year, according to the National Registry of Exonerations.

For nearly three decades, lawyers, journalists, and innocence advocates have exposed flaws in the criminal justice system and identified the factors that contribute to wrongful convictions: perjury or false accusations, eyewitness misidentification, official misconduct, bad science or misleading forensic evidence, and false confessions. But while exoneration marks a new beginning for those who were unjustly convicted, life on the outside can also be fraught with difficulty. There is no infrastructure or aftercare to help exonerees come to terms with all they have suffered, to teach them how to patch together their shattered lives. The lack of support for those wrongfully convicted is an issue that has long been overlooked by the media, which tend to focus on the multimillion-dollar lawsuits won by a very few. Little is known about how exonerated prisoners struggle to rebuild the lives and the livelihoods they have lost. Indeed, release from prison is not the victory it is often perceived to be. It is not the end of the story. It is simply a new chapter. Continue reading >>>