The struggle of adjusting to life outside prison after being exonerated has been described by some clients as harder than the struggle for their freedom inside prison. In Louisiana, exonerated prisoners leave prison after decades wrongly convicted with only their meager belongings and no photo identification. The emotional and financial cost of years of having a family-member wrongly imprisoned can gradually deplete the ability of many families to support exonerees when they finally come home. It is therefore right, natural, and necessary that those of us who have walked with them to freedom, walk with them, and often their families, to a full, healthy and productive life. Walking back to a full life means not just helping to plan and vision, but also providing practical, hands-on, immediate support when and where our clients need it. Because if we can’t, very often no one else can. And that is a tragedy compounding an injustice.
No one can come out of the horrific experience of a wrongful conviction and imprisonment unscathed. But with a lack of resources, the wrongly convicted struggle with living healthy, full lives. Every client is different and, though they have common scars, everyone’s experience hurts and damages them in different ways. It is vital that they have robust and reliable support, both because they deserve it and so that they can harness their bitter experience to be a force for good in the world.
The Life After Life program reaches IPNO’s freed clients. The needs and benefits vary drastically from client to client, but are extensive.
A sampling of support we have provided includes securing needed identification, Medicaid/Medicare, housing, job training and employment, purchasing cell phones and paying for service, securing and paying for mental health services, finding a pro bono lawyer to draft wills and a CPA to help with taxes and financial matters, securing speaking arrangements (preparing the client to speak and paying them honorariums), assisting with computer and social media literacy and setting up Amazon wish lists and fundraising pages that have provided over $100,000 of direct support. The list goes on.