Helping the Exonerated Cope After Release

Monday, March 03, 2014

Jeffrey Deskovic talks about his advocacy organization and support group for exonerated inmates, the Jeffrey Deskovic Foundation for Justice. He says that, with more awareness about prosecutorial misconduct, more and more exoneration cases are being brought.

Of his own fight for exoneration, Deskovic says, "You’re not just fighting an external battle – trying to stay away from the obstacles, you’re trying to prove your case in court against often a doubting judiciary. But then also, it’s an inner struggle. You have to fight off feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, depression – thoughts of suicide come in your mind."

Unlike parolees, however, there’s no help available for the exonerated as they make the transition out of prison. Deskovic says, "You’re released with nothing."

Kian Khatibi and William Lopez, who have both been exonerated, described their experiences. Khatibi was sentenced at the age of 17 and when he was released – after nine and a half years -- he didn’t even have ID.  "Basically, everything I had to learn over again. How to live in society, how to pump gas on a car. I mean, everything had changed so much."

Lopez served 23 and a half years for allegedly killing a drug dealer in a botched robbery in 1989. When he went into prison, MetroCards and cell phones didn’t exist. "The world is incredibly fast…It’s changed so much."


Jeffrey Deskovic, Kian Khatibi and William Lopez

Comments [6]

Theodore from New Rochelle

Kian--Thank you for responding. What a shock (an understatement I realize), to go from the environment of an "A" college student to prison. I presume you are saying that once exonerated, a college or university has no problem admitting them as a student? May I ask, were your scholarships based on your academic performance? The reason I ask is because I have trouble just navigating the arena of returning to school just for myself, without legal trouble.

Mar. 04 2014 01:07 PM
Kian D. Khatibi from Greenwich Village, NYC

@Theodore from New Rochelle: I can speak for only myself when I say that when I entered prison I was in college and had an A average. Upon my release from prison I immediately re-entered college, receiving a substantial scholarship from New York University in pursuit of my undergrad degree, and then once again from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, also located in NYC. Any remaining funds that I needed were taken care of from student loans. Of course, these loans will have to be repaid. @Amy from Manhattan: Normally, when someone is exonerated, the first priority of all those involved is to release them. This is usually done in haste and without the formalities that normally occur upon a guilty person's release from prison. Often, there is no phone call, money, clothing, or property given to the exonerated person at that time. However, "bitter" this may be, it is far more "sweet" to finally have a long awaited freedom of movement. Hence, release of an exonerated person is always "bittersweet." Sincerely, Kian Daniel Khatibi.

Mar. 03 2014 05:56 PM
Theodore from New Rochelle

What I want to know FROM ANYONE WHO KNOWS, is how do these guys who don't come from wealth families, are not rich themselves, and are not from scholarship-oriented academic backgrounds--how do they pay for Law School, the doctorate program one of them mentioned, etc.? Where do you get the money for school for these advanced degrees? How do you qualify to get into school? Anyone? How is this done? Always escaped me.

Mar. 03 2014 12:38 PM
john from office

All these guys are well prepared for their Civil suits.

Mar. 03 2014 12:20 PM
genejoke from Brooklyn

23 years in prison for a crime he didn't commit. Utterly heartbreaking.
Deskovic is doing society an important service with his foundation.

Mar. 03 2014 12:15 PM
Amy from Manhattan

One of the guests mentioned the support he got from his family. When someone is exonerated, do they even get a phone call to *contact* their family? When you're arrested, at least you get 1 phone call. Does an exoneree's family (or lawyer? get notified when the person is release?

Mar. 03 2014 12:15 PM

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