Transition From Prisoner to Exonerated: Times Tracks Difficulties in New Life
posted by Deven Desai
The New York Times has interviewed 115 people whose convictions have been overturned based on DNA evidence. Apparently support systems for these people are often thin and in some cases the resources for those who did commit crimes are better than for those who did not: “despite being imprisoned for an average of 12 years, they typically left prison with less help — prerelease counseling, job training, substance-abuse treatment, housing assistance and other services — than some states offer to paroled prisoners.” The article details the compensation claims, the employment status, and the re-incarceration rates. I do not research in this area of the law but if anyone has studied this issue please send along a cite. The article highlights that once someone has the conviction some states are slow to remove the conviction after the error is found. In addition, earlier facts such as a college degree or a good job history are overshadowed. That point raises the question of when society truly forgives or forgets what came before. In these cases it seems that the vague knowledge that someone was convicted even though now found innocent is enough to hinder if not thwart efforts to rejoin society. Although the article focuses on what sort of compensation if any these people can receive and that issue is important, the Les Miserables aspect of being hounded by one’s past even if that reputation is undeserved poses problems. Dan’s work on online reputation and his earlier work about digital persons intersect here. The continual access to this information interferes if not prevents someone from re-establishing their identity, Whether society wants to provide the space to allow such acts may be what the lack of support for the exonerated points to.
The Times also has a multi-media, interactive feature that allows one to hear many of the voices and stories of the exonerated.