Jeffrey Deskovic spent 16 years in a New York State prison for a murder he did not commit. Deskovic, who was released in 2006, found that his first year on the outside was more turbulent than triumphant, says the New York Times. He is, at 34, a free man who has yet to feel truly free. At least 205 men and one woman nationwide have been exonerated through DNA evidence since 1989, including 53 convicted of murder. In gathering information on 137 of them, the Times found that many faced the same challenges Deskovic has confronted, like making a living, reconnecting with relatives, and seeking financial recompense for his lost years.
Given Deskovic's age at conviction (17, one of about two dozen of the 206 exonerated inmates imprisoned as teenagers) and length of incarceration (about 35 percent spent more than 15 years behind bars), he has faced particular challenges. Having spent nearly half his life locked up, accused of brutalizing a high school classmate he hardly knew, Deskovic was released lacking some of life's most fundamental skills and experiences. He had never lived alone, owned a car, scanned classified ads for jobs. He had never voted, balanced a checkbook or learned to knot a tie. Now he expects to earn a bachelor's degree in behavioral sciences in two months; he hopes to go to law school.