You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘Exoneration’ tag.

In a blog post, Shawn Rocco covered yesterday’s exoneration of Greg Taylor

Rocco says, “Exonerating innocent men is a storyline that is sadly becoming all too common in this state over the past few years. Darryl Hunt, Joseph Abbitt and Dwayne Dail were in the courtroom today to hear the verdict and welcome another man into their unique group. DNA (or lack thereof) helped their cases. It did to a certain degree with Taylor. But it was the lack of any substantial evidence that led the the three-judge panel to their decision.”

© Shawn Rocco

For more the full article read here and Rocco’s accompanying photo gallery is here.

_________________________________________________

Regarding exonerations, I have previously featured James Estrin’s New York Times story on Jeffrey Deskovic.

Two stories from the British press this week mimicking to two pressing issues of the American justice system – care provision for mentally ill prison populations & exoneration after wrongful conviction.

First off. As the Beeb reports, The Lord Bradley Report has recommended moving mentally ill inmates out of prisons and into alternative care environments. That’s a significant victory for prison mental health reformers, and for the UK public.

The impressive thing Bradley’s report is that he ties the shortcomings of the prison system to provide appropriate mental-health care to wider problematic practices of policing; highlighting in particular the relatively new anti-social behaviour (ASBO) as inflexible and routinely applied. From the BBC,

It is expected to highlight how ASBO and penalty notices can accelerate the treatment of mentally ill people as criminals. Some estimates suggest 70% of inmates have two or more mental disorders

and

In February, Ministry of Justice (MoJ) figures revealed that a record 3,906 offenders with mental disorders were being held in secure hospitals in England and Wales at the end of 2007.

'I miss the prison crowds' ... Sean Hodgson. Photograph: David Levene/Guardian

'I miss the prison crowds' ... Sean Hodgson. Photograph: David Levene/Guardian

Secondly, The Guardian ran Sean Hodgson’s story about time served on a 27 year wrongful conviction. It also covered the first three days following release and the circumstances of Hodgson and reporter, Aina Edemariam, meeting. Edemariam picked Hodgson up off the street after he’d been clipped by the wing mirror of a passing taxi.

Sean Hodgson has been dealt a shitty hand. He suffers from a long list of serious health problems, his money has run out so he survives on coffee. He is lonely. On a ‘couple of times he has felt so depressed he has called a crisis line. But it was busy, he says. “So I just went to bed.”‘ He has also been stalked by a tabloid photographer.

In the US, The Innocence Project has led the way using DNA evidence to overturn wrongful convictions. I think Britain lawyers’ eyes were opened by the Innocence Project’s legal endeavours. The UK has been slower in it’s use of DNA testing for old cases. Sean Hodgson has served the second longest term for a wrongful conviction in the history of British law. And after doing that time? Well it was an abrupt transition:

Lifers who admit guilt go through a few years of preparation for their release: they are given parole, are able to work outside the prison, to put housing and income in place; they can retreat to the prison whenever the outside world gets too overwhelming. Those who have never admitted their guilt very rarely get parole, and thus receive none of this. So Hodgson was taken immediately to the housing and benefits offices – where it transpired that someone had stolen his identity and he no longer had a national insurance (social security) number, meaning that officially he did not exist. His MP had to intervene to sort that out.

With his brother he had his first pint and cigarette as a free man. Although they had spoken twice a week throughout his incarceration they hadn’t actually seen each other for over 10 years, because, he says, his brother couldn’t afford to travel to the prison. After their drink, his brother went back to his hotel, and the next morning, home, to work a night shift. And then Hodgson was on his own.

And then in some final insult, Hodgson’s compensation from the government, which will take at least a year and for which he must apply!, will pan out like this:

Then, when compensation is finally paid out, the government, unbelievably, docks room and board, or “saved living expenses” calculated on the basis of what a frugal person might have spent on their own upkeep if they were free. “As if you voluntarily popped into the local prison,” says Young, contemptuously. “Yes, it would have cost them something to live – but you’ve taken their liberty. If you can afford £50bn to bail out a bank you can afford to compensate someone for 27 years in prison.” McManus estimates that Hodgson will pay a minimum of £100,000 for the privilege. The appeal was paid for by legal aid, but it does not cover the process of applying for compensation. And so Hodgson will have to pay legal fees too.

______________________________________________________

I know it’s quote heavy. I tried to reduce the articles down to their essentials.

David Levene’s photographic work for the Guardian

Permanent for Sean Hodgson article, ‘Freedom? It’s lonely’

Continued Guardian coverage of Sean Hodgson

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.

After spending the last 50 years of his life behind bars, 75 year old Earl Reinhardt is about to be set free. He is completely unprepared and has no money, no destination, and no family or friends to help him when he walks out the prison door. Sarah Bones

After spending the last 50 years of his life behind bars, 75 year old Earl Reinhardt is about to be set free. He is completely unprepared and has no money, no destination, and no family or friends to help him when he walks out the prison door. Sarah Bones

“What happens when a 75 year old who has spent his last 50 years behind bars gets released?” This is the questions Sarah Bones asks in a careful study of Earl. Earl has no plans, no money and no destination. He makes this clear to those in positions to aid his assimilation into society and yet, after he leaves prison, he predictably turns up homeless and seemingly alone.

At an exit interview in Laural Highlands SCI in Somerset, Pennsylvania, Earl tells the prison social workers that he doesn't want to leave and he is confused about where to go and how to survive. Sarah Bones

At an exit interview in Laural Highlands SCI in Somerset, Pennsylvania, Earl tells the prison social workers that he doesn't want to leave and he is confused about where to go and how to survive. Sarah Bones

Bones does an excellent job with the captions pointing out the realities of Earl’s modest life – keeping warm in the library, eating at soup kitchens, avoiding queues at the health center, unable to find work, wearing the same prison jacket – only with his name crossed out. Earl explains over coffee that living homeless is tough and he wishes he was back inside. Bones’ photography is evidence that for a lot of former inmates the common experience after release is homelessness. Being outside the prison walls is to be outside all walls.

Earl thinks that if he keeps a low profile and stays quiet they will forget to release him. Sarah Bones

Earl thinks that if he keeps a low profile and stays quiet they will forget to release him. Sarah Bones

Earl is unable to wrap his head around his imminent reentry into the free world so he shuffles and hides around the prison hoping the prison authorities will forget about him. I think the same denial would strike pensioner who hadn’t walked free since the early 1950s as a young twenty-something.

Still wearing his prison jacket only now with his name crossed out, Earl stands underneath an abandoned storefront roof to stay dry. Sarah Bones.

Still wearing his prison jacket only now with his name crossed out, Earl stands underneath an abandoned storefront roof to stay dry. Sarah Bones.

After Earl’s release Bones searched for him. She found him in his home town a few hours from the prison. He had taken greyhound. For three months, Earl lived on the streets. He fell down some stairs, and thereafter was admitted to Reading hospital. Earl was hospitalised for 8 weeks and then taken into permanent nursing home care. During his three months on the street, Earl often showed his prison ID to people he met. His institutional identity was one of the few things he had, and when he ended in up in permanent nursing care one feels that a return to an institution, without the stresses of life outside, was a positive result for Earl. Maybe.

Earl flashes his prison ID photo card when approached. It is all that he has to show for himself. Sarah Bones

Earl flashes his prison ID photo card when approached. It is all that he has to show for himself. Sarah Bones

There have been several photo essays done about prison release, but often they feature men with a story to define based on their own choices. These men are younger prisoners who usually return to complex communities, daily decisions, and family interaction. Or the inmate is the exonerated after an overturned sentence. Vance Jacobs did a great series covering Alan Crotzer’s story of exoneration after 25 years for a crime he didn’t commit.

Earl’s case seems very different. It doesn’t seem Earl had many choices … or ones that he was aware of. Sarah Bones completed this series in 2002/03. Earl died in July 2005.

Of Bones’ other work, I am particularly struck by three photographs from East Africa which includes two heartwrenching portraits of AIDS sufferers shunned by their families and a top-drawer portrait which deserves an essay in itself. Please view Bones’ other photo essays on Rwandans lives 15 years after the genocide and her Lightstalkers gallery which includes her work for the Sierra Leone Global Action Foundation.

Sarah S. Bones is a self-taught, award-winning, internationally-exhibited photographer. Sarah saved for her first 35mm camera at age 13. She has documented peoples’ stories in Cuba, Guatemala, Kenya, India, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Somalia and Tanzania. In the Pennsylvania area, she has photographed in prisons, homeless shelters and on political campaigns. Bones tells the stories of men, women, and children who are voiceless and too often ignored by the popular media.

EMAIL

prisonphotography [at] gmail [dot] com

@BROOKPETE ON TWITTER

Prison Photography Archives

Post Categories