James Estrin for the New York Times

James Estrin for the New York Times

Jeffrey Deskovic was imprisoned for 16 years for a rape and murder he did not commit. The New York Times produced this sobering slideshow of his first year outside prison.

James Estrin for the New York Times

James Estrin for the New York Times

Two things in Deskovic’s story stood out. First of all, I was struck by the everyday practices and processes he lists as doing for the first time – cooking his own breakfast; opening and closing the window, keeping his own hours, shopping, even driving “represents power and freedom”; using the internet; using a cell phone (“I asked where the holes were to talk into”); first day at college; and swimming. “The water felt heavy” was Deskovic’s summary. It had been so long his body was not used to it.

James Estrin for the New York Times

James Estrin for the New York Times

The second thing that struck me was how alone Deskovic was. He admitted to low points, thinking about taking his own life, wondering if it was a dream. Most tragic was his nagging feelings that he has somehow slipped through the cracks and that a twist of fate landed him on the outside. He is struggling and wonders whether he will be a ‘prisoner’ all his life. His institutional life has seeped into his psyche it seems.

James Estrin for the New York Times

James Estrin for the New York Times

These revelations are most shocking to me because Deskovic looks so well equipped to deal with his new life. He is an advocate for overturning wrongful convictions, he works with the press diligently, he feels “at his best” when he is making a presentation or talk. And yet, he is still waiting for the gradual process of a “normal-life”, including a trusting partner, to become him.

Jeffrey Deskovic addresses the press. James Estrin for the New York Times

Jeffrey Deskovic addresses the press. James Estrin for the New York Times

Jeffrey Deskovic admitted to a small smile when he first spoke to the press following his release, because “they knew what I had always known”. I would like to think this smile has sustained and grown in the 15 months since the New York Times did the feature.

Please read the original story by the New York Times. Photography by James Estrin and Suzanne DeChillo, who has photographed incarcerated immigrants awaiting deportation at Wyatt Prison, Rhode Island.