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“Take It One Day at a Time and Try to Adjust to What's Going on”: Exonerees’ Advice to the Newly Exonerated and Future Exonerees About Life Post-Release

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Abstract

Wrongful convictions have received increased attention from both scholars and the media over the past several decades. Most of the research on this topic has focused on the factors that contribute to wrongful convictions and policy changes that may help prevent future miscarriages of justice. Scholars have also explored the post-release experiences of those who have been exonerated. Less attention has been paid to the advice exonerees would share with those who have been recently exonerated to help them navigate their new lives. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with individuals who were wrongfully convicted in the southern United States to explore this issue. While acknowledging that the post-exoneration transition could be challenging, the participants noted that they would advise those who are newly exonerated that faith, talking to other exonerees, learning how to be patient with the process, and finding a way to enjoy their new lives were important to navigating this process. This study highlights the value of exploring the perspectives of exonerees to increase our understanding of their experiences, while also using their insight to inform policy that will assist the wrongfully convicted after being exonerated and released from prison.

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Few problems can pose a greater threat to free, democratic societies than that of wrongful conviction—the conviction of an innocent person. Yet relatively little attention has been paid to this problem, perhaps because of our understandable concern with the efficiency and effectiveness of the criminal justice system in combatting crime. Drawing on our own database of nearly 500 cases of wrongful conviction, our survey of criminal justice officials, and our review of extant literature on the subject, we address three major questions: (1) How frequent is wrongful conviction? (2) What are its major causes? and (3) What policy implications may be derived from this study?
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Studies investigating the trials and tribulations of women offenders in the United States are becoming increasingly common. One theme in the literature is that successful reentry of women offenders is dependent on support of social networks. Generally, social theorists posit that a variety of positive outcomes is associated with healthy social networks. For example, networks provide social structural resources (“social capital”), which in turn promote acquisition of skills and knowledge (“human capital”) to achieve goals that would otherwise be unattainable. This article investigates the differential distribution of social networks in terms of size and resources (i.e., support) across social groupings (e.g., race, age) using a sample of adult female felons. The results show that (a) better educated and higher income offenders are members of larger social networks, and (b) poorly educated women offenders, women with annual legal incomes below $8,000, and younger offenders have access to lower levels of support.
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In this article, we consider the intersection of religious coping and the experience of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in a lifespan sample of adults living in South Louisiana during the 2005 storms. Participants were young, middle-age, older, and oldest-old adults who were interviewed during the post-disaster recovery period. Qualitative analyses confirmed that three dimensions of religion were represented across participants' responses. These dimensions included: 1) faith community, in relation to the significant relief effort and involvement of area churches; 2) religious practices, in the sense of participants' behavioral responses to the storms, such as prayer; and c) spiritual beliefs, referring to faith as a mechanism underlying individual and family-level adjustment, acceptance and personal growth in the post-disaster period. Implications for future disaster preparedness are considered.
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This paper examines the role of family in the prisoner reintegration process, exploring the views of soon-to-be-released prisoners regarding the family support they expect to receive as well as their assessments of how supportive family members actually were after release. It draws on a study of 413 male prisoners returning to the cities of Baltimore and Chicago who completed self-administered surveys one to two months prior to their release and one-on-one interviews between two and three months after release from prison. The study found that released prisoners relied on family members extensively for housing, financial support, and emotional support. For the most part, the pre-release expectations of family support among these respondents were exceeded after release. Furthermore, respondents placed greater value on the role of family in their reintegration process after their release from prison than they did when they were still incarcerated. This suggests that families are an important influence in the reentry process and that they provide much-needed support to returning prisoners. (Contains 1 table, 3 figures, and 6 notes.)