Former inmates who have been exonerated of their crimes often find themselves treated like other ex-cons while carrying the added psychological scars of unjust treatment and years that cannot be replaced, says the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. One of them interviewed by the newspaper was luckier than some. He was freed by DNA testing, which made him eligible for state compensation. But his despair persists. “I guess I expected more – a home, transportation, a decent job,” he said. “I have to seek and find and struggle. I could have had all that if a decade wasn’t taken out of my life.”
The man’s struggle is common for those unlucky enough to be wrongfully convicted but lucky enough to prove it. Usually, they leave prison with a handshake, their release papers, and nowhere to go. Advocates say there is usually more help – like counseling and temporary housing – provided to parolees who actually did commit crimes. “Most are terribly grateful, and looking forward to reuniting with their families and communities,” said Cheryl Pilate, a Kansas City attorney who works with the Midwestern Innocence Project. “But the reality is they are wounded inside on many levels and these scars are not visible sometimes for years.” She said depression, anxiety, substance abuse and paranoia are typical.