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The Challenges Exonerees Face After Exoneration

May 4, 2016 | Written by Dan Margolis

Exoneration may seem like the ultimate goal for those wrongfully convicted, but life for the exoneree is not always what a person expects. The longer the exoneree was in prison in Ohio and around the country, the more challenges he or she faces upon leaving and trying to re-integrate into society.

According to Resurrection After Exoneration, the development of DNA testing for forensics has increased the number of people exonerated for various crimes. There are more than 400 exonerees dealing with life outside of prison. Many of these find it difficult to reintegrate into society and face similar barriers to those with a criminal record, including difficulty getting employment, denial of certain rights including the right to vote and trouble receiving certain government services.

Those who are serving life sentences have limited options for job training, classes or other assistance to prepare them for re-entering society, making it more difficult when they are exonerated. This leads to 2 in 3 not being able to find ways to be financially independent, about half living with family and 1 in 3 losing child custody rights.

According to the American Psychological Association’s American Psychology-Law Society, the compensation laws are often not sufficient to adequately help those wrongfully accused to find a place within society. Exonerees struggle with finding employment, housing and financial support. Each state has its own compensation laws, but more often than not, they are restrictive and provide insufficient funds and little help to integrate the exoneree back into society.

The trauma experienced while in prison is similar to chronic psychological trauma and life-threatening traumas that have a causal relationship with mental health disorders, including posttraumatic stress disorder, anxiety and clinical depression. Many exonerees also struggle with finding adequate health care.

For some exonerees, much has changed in the world during the time they spent in prison, which can also make it difficult to adjust. It is not just that exonerees must adapt to changes in fashion or cultural norms, the rapid changes in technology can pose difficulty for a person. There may also be changes to the community or a person’s family.

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