The exonerated are the increasing numbers of individuals in this country who have been convicted of crimes they did not commit, and manage to win release from prison after having proven their innocence. There are approximately 500 exonerees nationwide; the Life After Exoneration Program has worked directly with over 75 exonerees. Many of the most recent exonerations have been through the use of DNA evidence, and while there has been a significant amount of attention directed at the fact of wrongful conviction in this country, few Americans realize what awaits someone who has proven their innocence. The biographies of four exonerees – Vincent Moto, Michael Evans, Calvin Willis, and Pete Rose – highlight challenges that many innocent men and women experience after they win their freedom.
2005 LAEP Study
A recent LAEP study of 60 exonerees nationwide confirmed that exonerees have considerable difficulty rebuilding their lives:
Let Down by Society a Second Time
Many people do not realize that most states have no law providing compensation for an innocent person who was wrongfully convicted for the time he or she spent in prison. In the states that do have compensation statutes, the amount is meager and the process to qualify for it is difficult for most exonerees to negotiate.
What re-entry services are available to parolees are not available to exonerees. In most instances, a conviction remains on the exoneree's record even after the individual has proven innocence, thereby making it difficult for the exoneree to get a job, rent an apartment, or get credit.