The OPIA Blog

Life After (False) Imprisonment

In a recent series of articles, The New York Times takes an in-depth look at 115 former inmates across the country, most of whom were wrongly imprisoned on murder or rape charges. Utilizing the extensive records of the Innocence Project, the Times researched these men and their lives on the outside. Every one of them was exonerated by DNA evidence and many came into the prison system as teens, leaving as adults. Nearly 40% of those men interviewed have received no government assistance or compensation, men like Michael Anthony Williams and Gene Bibbins who have found life after prison full of difficulties.

“It’s ridiculous,” said Vincent Moto, exonerated in 1996 of a rape conviction after serving almost nine years in Pennsylvania. “They have programs for drug dealers who get out of prison. They have programs for people who really do commit crimes. People get out and go in halfway houses and have all kinds of support. There are housing programs for them, job placement for them. But for the innocent, they have nothing.”

Some sue the state or their former correctional institution, trying to receive some measure of recompense for time served unfairly. Still, many try to move on, getting jobs and careers, and in rarer cases, getting married or graduating from college, but the stigma of conviction is hard to throw off, particularly with potential employers. Personal relationships that haven’t existed for as many as 15 years are difficult to reestablish, and in the case of those who were convicted at a particularly young age, merging back into ordinary life is a constant struggle. These men are finding out how to pay their bills, do their groceries or connect with the opposite sex for the very first time without the structure of prison telling them what to do. While new federal regulations have attempted to increase compensation at the national level, state laws have been slow to follow. And for many of those who have lapsed into drugs and criminal activity, such help may be too little too late. To read more, please click here.