Friday, 8 August 2008

Exonerated Jeff Deskovic Finds Reintegration Back Into Society Is Anything But Easy

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Starting at the age of 17 and ending at 34, I served 16 years in prison for a murder and rape which I was proven innocent of by DNA 23 months ago. I received an acknowledgment of my innocence and an apology from both the judge and the prosecutor. I was not given any compensation to assist me in starting my life over. I have sued, but it will take between 2-7 years before the litigation is over. Most people think that once someone has been freed from prison following exoneration that their problems are over. In reality, reintegration back into society after being exonerated is anything but easy. The difficulties that I encounter on a daily basis in many ways are typical of that which almost all exonerees experience.

Psychologically and emotionally, coping with what happened to me and the after effects has been hard, as has adjusting to being free after having decisions made for me for such a long time. In many ways, it is like being dropped off on a strange planet where one knows nobody, doesn’t understand the culture, customs, or technology.

Financially, it is a struggle. I earn money by giving lectures on wrongful convictions across the country at high schools, colleges, churches, and other community organizations, but I never know when or if the next one is coming. I also write an article a week for a local newspaper on criminal justice and wrongful conviction type subjects. When I have tried to find a job making consistent income to support myself in between engagements, I am only offered dead end jobs being paid next to nothing because I don’t have the same level of experience that others have.

It has been hard breaking in socially. Most people have a circle of friends and people that they socialize with. They form these associations from work, college, high school, and friends of friends. But I am never at the same location twice unless I get invited back, I email in my articles for the paper, at college the students were in the wrong age group, and I was incarcerated during what would have been my high school years. What does one do when one has no assets with which to start?

I am a solutions oriented, pro-active person who has a never give up mentality. But I am in an environment which I do not fully understand. To deal with readjustment and what happened to me, I see a therapist twice a week. I have worked hard trying to learn technology, for the most part on my own through asking questions here and there. I am not quite caught up to speed, but I have learned a lot. Financially, I have started my own non-profit organization whose purpose is to disseminate information about wrongful convictions, get reforms passed, help exonerate people, and help the exonerated reintegrate, and am currently looking for funding from both wealthy people and other philanthropic organizations. If I can find it, not only will those issues be worked on but I will help supervise things, and thus I will in effect have created my own job. I have also tried to get a loan, using my lawsuit as collateral. The goal would be to borrow enough to have a modest amount of money to live off of for the next 3-4 somewhat akin to what I would make as a salary while I await compensation. I am willing to pay back the principal and interest, as well as an additional amount of money for doing me the favor, but again I have not been able to find anybody. Litigation banks want such an absorbitant amount of money interest wise that I might as well be handing them the lawsuit.

In terms of trying to find people to do things with, I would like people between 25-37 to hang out with, who are educated, progressive, and social justice type people, who like doing energy based type things for fun, such as sports, anything involving a ball, swimming, biking, karaoke, trying new things, going to new places, parks, amusement parks, historical places, and just having a good conversation, who live within 25 minutes of Tarrytown, NY. I have went to a variety of places, tried many ideas that others have suggested, placed ads on, myspace, and Craigslist. I even tried starting my own Meetup group; alas no one showed up. I do not know what else to try. If anybody would like to send me a message of support, comments, much needed ideas, make a contribution to help the foundation get started, or even to hang out if you are within 20 minutes of Tarrytown, NY, please email me through my website http://www.jeffreydeskovicspeaks/. All emails will be answered.

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