For every headline that reads as a variation of “Wrongfully convicted prisoner in line for multi-million compensation claim”, there are dozens of prisoners who know that the truth is quite the opposite of the lottery win than the headlines suggests. In the UK compensation for wrongful imprisonment often comes to around £90 per day of imprisonment, but even once that has been awarded the government actually deducts board and lodging from that sum – often around half of that £90 figure. That leaves the recently released person facing a compensation sum that is often far below what they would have earned in a minimum wage job for the equivalent amount of time they were incarcerated.
On its own, that figure would be bad enough but the government has long tried to reduce the amount that it pays out in compensation in such cases. The case of Andrew Adams, which is covered in some depth on this site, is one such cautionary tale. Although Adams’ conviction was overturned the government refused to pay compensation, claiming that Adams had not proven that he was innocent, merely that he should not have been found guilty at trial. Other stories appear in the press from time to time making just that point.
But one aspect that is receives far less coverage is the transition from being falsely imprisoned to being released. This article on Vice.com, entitled “What it’s like to be wrongfully convicted” and written by Cassie Aylward, talks about exoneree Ron Dalton’s struggle with the US system:
He won his appeal and was released on bail in 1998, but it wouldn’t be until 2000 that he was acquitted of any wrongdoing in connection with his wife’s death. Dalton walked out of the courtroom, left to his own devices to re-enter normal life. When a person completes a prison sentence and is released, there’s a slower, guided release back into the community, Dalton says. They can move from maximum to medium or minimum-security facilities, and then to halfway houses, before going back home but when a conviction is overturned, that’s not the case.
“The system provides absolutely nothing,” he says. “I went into court in shackles, a body belt, and handcuffs and walked out on my own.”
The article can be seen here: http://www.vice.com/en_uk/read/what-it-is-like-to-be-wrongfully-convicted-of-murder and is an interesting, sobering read on a little-discussed aspect of the larger miscarriage of justice issue.