Sometimes, the criminal justice system fails people in Pennsylvania, and elsewhere, and they are convicted of crimes they did not commit. Through the criminal appeals process, however, some may see these convictions overturned. The National Registry of Exonerations reports that 1,707 people have been exonerated in the U.S. as of December 1, 2015. Despite having their names cleared, many exonerees face numerous challenges after they are released from prison.
Particularly when they have been incarcerated for a number of years, people’s support systems, including their family and friends, may have moved on with their lives. As such, those who are exonerated may not have people to lean on and help them as they transition back into society. This can create challenges as the world may have changed drastically since they were imprisoned.
The Innocence Project points out that those who have fallen victim to wrongful convictions often drain any resources they may have had on their legal fees. Therefore, they likely do not have funds or assets at their disposal when they are released. When exonerees do not have family or friends to lean on, a lack of money may impede them as they try to reintegrate into the culture and rebuild their lives. Consequently, people who have been exonerated may struggle to find housing and obtain other necessities.
Due to their incarcerations, exonerees may have lost their jobs or careers. Upon their release, many are not able to regain these professional opportunities. Furthermore, they may have been out of the field for such a long period of time, that things may have changed. Thus, any prior experience that they had may be essentially obsolete. As a result, exonerees may have difficulties finding gainful employment that will allow them to support themselves.
Even with the challenges they may face, those who have been wrongfully convicted of crimes deserve to get their lives back. As such, people who have been convicted of crimes they did not commit may benefit from working with an attorney. A legal representative may help them to understand their options, and mount a case to have their names cleared.