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Vocapedia > Justice > USA > Prison, jail, inmates > Freedom, Ex-prisoners




 Illustration: Nicolas Ortega


 SundayReview | Editorial | Locked Out of Society

Labels Like ‘Felon’ Are an Unfair Life Sentence


MAY 7, 2016

















A Ride Home From Prison        NYT        23 July 2015





A Ride Home From Prison        Video        Op-Docs | The New York Times        23 July 2015


This short Op-Doc documentary

profiles a former prisoner who guides men released

from life sentences in California

through their first hours of freedom.


Produced by: Katie Galloway and Kelly Duane de la Vega

Read the story here: http://nyti.ms/1JyzMs8

Watch more videos at: http://nytimes.com/video


















grant freedom to N

























be freed













get out of prison






get out of jail






leave prison































older prisoners > compassionate release





























































































































former inmates










life on the outside










re-entry centers










Thousands Leave Maryland Prisons

With Health Problems And No Coverage        NPR        April 24, 2016










ex-inmates > Medicaid










life after incarceration > restrictions


For people serving time in jail or prison,

it may seem like punishment ends

on the day of release.


But in fact, thousands of restrictions

dictate the terms of life after incarceration, too.


University of Chicago professor

Reuben Jonathan Miller

estimates that there are 45,000

"laws, policies and administrative sanctions"

in the U.S. that target people with criminal records.


Some ban the formerly incarcerated

from serving on juries.


Others prevent people with records

from gaining employment.


"For example, in the state of Illinois,

it took a legislative act

to allow people with criminal records

who were trained as barbers in U.S. jails and prisons

to get their cosmetology license

— and that law didn't change until 2016," he says.


Miller says the most insidious restrictions

are those that prevent people with records

from accessing homes

— or that allow landlords

to reject applications based on the fact

that people have criminal records.


He notes that the formerly incarcerated

are seven times more likely to be homeless

than members of the general population.












ex-inmates > libraries





















Corpus of news articles


Justice > USA > Prison, jail, inmates >


Freedom, Ex-prisoners




Exonerated of Murder,

a Boxer Makes a Debut at 52


October 10, 2011

The New York Times



PHILADELPHIA — The television crew had him up at dawn doing the Rocky fandango, dashing up the 72 stone steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and dancing around in triumph like another over-the-hill, underdog pugilist who had made it big.

Cliché or not, it is hard not to imagine the familiar trumpet score along with the thwock, thwock, thwock of fists on punching bags as Dewey Bozella trains for one of the least likely boxing matches in history.

After 26 years in New York State prisons, and two years after he was exonerated of murder, Mr. Bozella will make his professional boxing debut on Saturday in Los Angeles, at age 52, on the undercard of the light-heavyweight champion Bernard Hopkins. (A mere 46 himself, Mr. Hopkins became the oldest fighter to win a major world championship this May.)

Mr. Bozella’s other fight, in which he is seeking compensation for the half of his life he spent behind bars, may be even more daunting than chasing victory in the ring. But for now, Mr. Bozella is focused on what he says will be his one and only professional bout.

“I want to go out there and give 100 percent and then move on with my life,” he said. “This is not a career move. It’s a personal move and a way to let people know to never give up on their dreams. My favorite quote is ‘Don’t let fear determine who you are and never let where you come from determine where you’re going.’ That’s what this is about.”

The product of a violent broken family and a hard life on the streets, Mr. Bozella was a troubled 18-year-old in 1977 when Emma Crapser, 92, was murdered in her Poughkeepsie, N.Y., home after returning from playing bingo. Six years later, based almost entirely on the testimony of two criminals who repeatedly changed their stories, he was convicted of the murder.

There was no physical evidence implicating Mr. Bozella. Instead, there was the fingerprint of another man, Donald Wise, who was later convicted of committing a nearly identical murder of another elderly woman in the same neighborhood. Mr. Bozella was retried in 1990, and was offered a deal that would let him go free in exchange for an admission that he committed the crime. He refused. A jury convicted him again.

At Sing Sing, he earned a bachelor’s degree from Mercy College and a master’s from the New York Theological Seminary. And he boxed in the prison’s “Death House,” once the scene of electrocutions, then a boxing ring, where he became Sing Sing’s light-heavyweight champion. At parole hearings, he repeatedly refused to express remorse for the crime he did not commit. He would get out one way, he said, either in a box or as an exonerated man. The box seemed more likely.

In the end, he was saved by a miracle. The Innocence Project, a legal clinic dedicated to overturning wrongful convictions, believing in his case but unable to pursue it absent DNA evidence, referred it to the law firm WilmerHale. Lawyers there eventually found the Poughkeepsie police lieutenant who had investigated the case. He had retired, and Mr. Bozella’s was the only file he had saved. It included numerous pieces of evidence favorable to Mr. Bozella that had not been turned over to his lawyers. On Oct. 28, 2009, he walked out of the courthouse in Poughkeepsie finally a free man.

He struggled to find work, eventually counseling former convicts while teaching boxing at a Newburgh, N.Y., gym until ESPN became interested in his story. In July, at its annual ESPY Awards, he was given its Arthur Ashe Courage Award, whose past recipients have included Muhammad Ali, Pat Tillman and Nelson Mandela. The offer to box professionally came as a result of that appearance.

But when he took the rigorous California State Athletic Commission test on Aug. 24 to get licensed to box in the state, he failed. After Labor Day, he began working out in Philadelphia with the trainers for Mr. Hopkins. They were skeptical.

“I’m thinking, ‘I’m going to kill this old guy,’ ” said Danny Davis, one of Mr. Hopkins’s trainers. “There’s no way this guy can make it through my training.”

But Mr. Bozella got tougher, leaner and more nimble, dropping 10 pounds in little more than a week. He sparred with, and took serious lumps from, a world-class fighter: Lajuan Simon, a middleweight title contender. Mr. Bozella took the test again on Sept. 29. This time he passed.

Officials said Mr. Bozella was believed to be the oldest fighter ever licensed to box in California. Fighters that age are extremely rare but hardly unknown. “The Ultimate Book of Boxing Lists,” by Bert Randolph Sugar and Teddy Atlas, has a section on “Boxing’s Greatest Methuselahs” that includes Mr. Hopkins; Jem Mace, the legendary 19th-century English boxer who fought at 59; and Saoul Mamby, a former junior welterweight titleholder who fought in 2008 at the age of 60, making him the oldest fighter ever to appear in an officially sanctioned bout.

Mr. Bozella, a cruiserweight — between light-heavyweights and heavyweights — will not be fighting for a championship; he is taking on Larry Hopkins, 30, of Houston, who is 0-3 as a professional (and is not related to Bernard Hopkins). His purse in the pay-per-view bout will be in the very low four figures.

But even if hype and marketing are as much a part of boxing as quick feet and sharp jabs, Mr. Bozella said the bout was anything but a stunt.

“You’ve seen the workout I went through, the pain, blood and bruises I’m getting,” he said after four rounds sparring with Mr. Simon last week. “No one’s giving me nothing for free. I can go out there and get knocked out, or I can knock the other guy out. It’s that simple.”

Mr. Bozella hopes to open his own gym as a way to mentor youngsters, but beyond its Hollywood touches, his feel-good story turns cloudier. The day after he passed the boxing test, a federal judge threw out his lawsuit against Dutchess County and the City of Poughkeepsie over the evidence that was not turned over to his lawyers.

The decision was primarily based on a controversial Supreme Court ruling in the case of Connick v. Thompson. By a 5-to-4 margin, the court, in a decision written by Justice Clarence Thomas in March, threw out a $14 million jury award to a former death row inmate freed after prosecutorial misconduct came to light. The decision stated that only a pattern of misconduct in properly turning over evidence could warrant financial compensation, no matter how egregious the misconduct against a single defendant.

“I’m not going to disrespect the courts,” Mr. Bozella said. “I’d just like the justice system to be fair. Same thing with boxing. If the judges are fair, then the real winner wins. Just be fair. That’s it.”

Exonerated of Murder, a Boxer Makes a Debut at 52,





For Ex-Prisoners,

a Haven Away From the Streets


January 17, 2011

8:15 pm

The New York Times



This year, the United States will release nearly three-quarters of a million people from prison, a record high. Nationally, 2.3 million people are in prison in the United States, and 95 percent of them will, at some point, get out and go home.

Society has a strong interest in keeping them home — in helping them to become law-abiding citizens instead of falling back into their old ways and returning to prison. But American programs for newly released prisoners echo the typical follies of our criminal justice system: our politicians usually believe that voters only want the emotional satisfactions of meting out maximum punishment, even if these policies lead to even more crime.

The usual package granted to someone released from prison in New York state is $40, a bus ticket and the considerable stigma that follows an ex-offender. Since prisoners are often held far away from their families and states charge astronomical rates for prison phone calls, prisoners often lose touch with their loved ones and may not have anyone to take them in when they get home. They may arrive in their home cities with no plans, other than — worrisomely — those hatched with fellow prisoners. They have little prospect for jobs or housing. Since many don’t get effective drug treatment in prison, they might still crave a fix, which costs money. It is little wonder that some former prisoners fall back into crime within hours or days.

Returning prisoners need many things: stable housing, drug treatment, job training, G.E.D. (high school equivalency) classes, parenting lessons, anger management. But even the handful of people who do worry about ex-offenders rarely mention what may be the most crucial need of all: a better class of friends.

Former prisoners go back to their old neighborhoods and meet up with their old gang, or new people of the only type they may be comfortable with — criminals. But what people need is to stop hanging out with associates who tempt them with promises of easy money or drug-filled nights. They need to start hanging out with people who think about the consequences of their actions, who value legitimate jobs, sobriety and family — people who go to their A.A. meetings and G.E.D. classes, who are trying to rebuild their lives.

How important are the right friends? We know that people get into crime and gangs primarily because their friends do. Hanging around with delinquent friends encourages young people to think of themselves as delinquents, and puts them in a world where criminal behavior is easy to engage in and brings social rewards. We do not know as much about whether pro-social peer groups can turn people away from crime. But it is reasonable to believe that the right peer group can help.

In West Harlem there is a large and beautiful Gothic building overlooking the Hudson River. It is called the Fortune Academy, but it is known to all as the Castle. It is owned by the Fortune Society, a group dedicated to helping returning prisoners succeed with starting new lives. The Fortune Society helps about 4,000 newly released prisoners each year with job training and placement, drug treatment, classes in cooking and anger management and being a father, and G.E.D. studies.
Hiroko Masuike for The New York Times The Fortune Academy in West Harlem.

Most of the people who work at Fortune were once themselves drug addicted, homeless or imprisoned. This is important. “The clients can look at the staff and say, ‘a few years ago, that person was where I am,’” said Glenn E. Martin, Fortune’s vice president of development and public affairs. (He himself served six years in prison, and was released nine years ago.) The staff can also see past appearances: “Some others may see a guy with his pants pulled down and his hat on, yelling, and say ‘he’s not ready,’ ” said Martin. “But we’ll talk to him.” The credibility and understanding produced by having a staff of former offenders is important. But about 300 of Fortune’s clients each year get something more: a bed in the Castle, and the chance to start a law-abiding life in the company of other people trying to do the same.

The Castle provides solutions to several of the most important problems facing newly released prisoners. One is housing. Between 10 and 20 percent of people released from state and city prisons and jails have nowhere stable to go — they couch surf with friends or go into homeless shelters. But a stable home is a prerequisite for all the other things needed for a productive life. The Castle can be that home for a few nights or many months, until the person can find work and safe housing he or she can afford.

Anyone newly released from prison with nowhere else to go can apply to live in the Castle. Open beds are filled by the first qualified applicant, but the Castle turns away at least 10 people for every one it accepts. Prisoners throughout New York state apply — because the Fortune Society has physical offices in some jails and prisons, the parole bureaucracy refers them and because prisoners themselves spread the word. “We get several thousand letters a year,” says JoAnne Page, the president and chief executive of the Fortune Society. “We get referrals from people’s mothers.” The Castle has single rooms for residents who earn them; the rest have roommates. It serves meals and has staff on duty around the clock. It has a computer lab, laundry and a cafeteria. Residents are required to go full time to counseling, services such as drug treatment or job placement, or to school.

But perhaps more important than housing, the Castle gives people a new group of friends to identify with. Every Thursday night at 6 the Castle has a group meeting of all its residents. At one recent meeting, people sat around an enormous table and talked about the successes of their week. One woman talked about her job as a janitor at a shelter for women. “It’s a safe place, and clean — that’s because of me,” she said with pride. One man recounted a speech he attended by a political candidate. Another said he opened a bank account for the first time in his life. One woman was applying for jobs and wondered aloud how best to phrase the information that she was a felon. JoAnne Page took the opportunity to deliver one of Fortune Society’s key messages: You are not a felon. You committed a felony and did your time, but that is not who you are. One man announced that the Castle’s chorus was rehearsing and was open to new members. The residents applauded each other fervently.

Delancey Street, in San Francisco, is a very different community with the same purpose. People come to live at the Delancey Street residential building for an average of four years. Each resident is required to get at least a high school equivalency degree and learn several marketable job skills, such as furniture making, sales or accounting. The organization is completely run by its residents, who teach each other — there is no paid staff at all. Teaching others is part of the rehabilitation process for Delancey residents. The residence is financed in part by private donations, but the majority of its financing comes from the businesses the residents run, such as restaurants, event planning, a corporate car service, a moving company and framing shop. All money earned goes to the collective, which pays all its residents’ expenses.

At both Fortune and Delancey, a person emerging from prison is surrounded by a community of people who support him, hold him accountable, teach him skills and model good behavior. Many of the men and women in these programs come to think of themselves as productive members of society for the first time in their lives, and it may also be the first time they ever feel competent at anything besides lawbreaking.

The Delancey Street residence, which began in 1971, has never been formally evaluated. But there is no question that is phenomenally successful. It has graduated more than 14,000 people from prison into constructive lives. Carol Kizziah, who manages Delancey’s efforts to apply its lessons elsewhere, says that the organization estimates that 75 percent of its graduates go on to productive lives. (For former prisoners who don’t go to Delancey, only 25 to 40 percent avoid re-arrest.) Since it costs taxpayers nothing, from a government’s point of view it could very well be the most cost-effective social program ever devised. The program has established similar Delancey Street communities in Los Angeles, New Mexico, North Carolina and upstate New York. Outsiders have replicated the Delancey Street model in about five other places.

While some other Fortune Society programs have been researched and found to be effective, there has been no study of the Castle, which began in 2002. Nevertheless, the Castle is often cited by criminal justice experts as a model for helping ex-offenders. New York State’s Division of Parole gave a special award to the Fortune Society last month, and parole officers who work with Castle residents speak highly of it. “It’s working,” said Otis Cruse, a parole officer who has had the Castle in his jurisdiction. “It has counseling, groups, connections to employment – it’s one-stop shopping. It’s comfortable, quiet, clean and safe — you can sleep without looking over your shoulder. It’s an environment where positive people are doing positive things — you are colleagues in pursuing the same goal.”

There is one possible caveat about the Castle’s effectiveness: most of the people I saw at the Castle were in their 30s or older. Older people who get out of prison, by definition, are more likely than young ones to have served long sentences for serious offenses. And the longer the sentence, the more disconnected and disoriented prisoners are likely to be upon release. So they are important clients for the Castle. But they are also at an age where people are leaving crime on their own, finally ready to accept some responsibility and aware they are not immortal and want a family and a stable life. Crime is a young person’s game. It may be true that many people at the Castle successfully turn around their lives. The question is whether their age would help them to do so in any case.

There are two puzzles here. Delancey Street is now celebrating its 40th anniversary. One would think that by now there would be Delancey 2.0 models sprouting all over. But there are not. A related mystery concerns the idea that underlies both Delancey and the Castle: the importance of pro-social peers. Our guts tell us they matter; we know the effect our friends can have on our behavior. Peer pressure may be the single most important factor getting people into crime — surely it should be employed to get them out again. Yet it is not. Besides Delancey and the Castle, there is probably not a single government agency or citizen group working with former prisoners that lists “clean-living peers” alongside housing, job training and other items on its agenda for what former prisoners need to go straight. These two communities of former prisoners are good projects, but they have failed to have a wider impact. Saturday’s column will look at why this is the case.

Tina Rosenberg won a Pulitzer Prize for her book

“The Haunted Land:

Facing Europe’s Ghosts After Communism.”

She is a former editorial writer for The Times

and now a contributing writer

for the paper’s Sunday magazine.

Her new book, “Join the Club:

How Peer Pressure Can Transform the World,”

is forthcoming from W.W. Norton.

For Ex-Prisoners, a Haven Away From the Streets,
NYT, 17.1.2011,






Man freed by DNA testing after 27 years


29 April 2008

USA Today


DALLAS (AP) — A Dallas man who spent more than 27 years in prison for a murder he didn't commit was freed Tuesday, after being incarcerated longer than any other wrongfully convicted U.S. inmate cleared by DNA testing.

James Lee Woodard stepped out of the courtroom and raised his arms to a throng of photographers. Supporters and other people gathered outside the court erupted in applause.

"No words can express what a tragic story yours is," state District Judge Mark Stoltz told Woodard at a brief hearing before his release.

Woodard, cleared of the 1980 murder of his girlfriend, became the 18th person in Dallas County to have his conviction cast aside. That's a figure unmatched by any county nationally, according to the Innocence Project, a New York-based legal center that specializes in overturning wrongful convictions.

"I thank God for the existence of the Innocence Project," Woodard, 55, told the court. "Without that, I wouldn't be here today. I would be wasting away in prison."

Overall, 31 people have been formally exonerated through DNA testing in Texas, also a national high. That does not include Woodard and at least three others whose exonerations will not become official until Gov. Rick Perry grants pardons or the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals formally accepts the ruling of lower courts that have already recommended exoneration.

Woodard was sentenced to life in prison in July 1981 for the murder of a 21-year-old Dallas woman found raped and strangled near the banks of the Trinity River.

He was convicted primarily on the basis of testimony from two eyewitnesses, said Natalie Roetzel, the executive director of the Innocence Project of Texas. One has since recanted in an affidavit. As for the other, "we don't believe her testimony was accurate," Roetzel said.

Like nearly all the exonorees, Woodard has maintained his innocence throughout his time in prison. But after filing six writs with an appeals court, plus two requests for DNA testing, his pleas of innocence became so repetitive and routine that "the courthouse doors were eventually closed to him and he was labeled a writ abuser," Roetzel said.

"On the first day he was arrested, he told the world he was innocent ... and nobody listened," Jeff Blackburn, chief counsel for the Innocence Project of Texas, said during Tuesday's hearing.

He even stopped attending his parole hearings because gaining his release would have meant confessing to a crime he didn't do.

"It says a lot about your character that you were more interested in the truth than your freedom," the judge told Woodard after making his ruling.

Blackburn and prosecutors hailed Tuesday's hearing as a landmark moment of frequent adversaries working together.

Since the DNA evidence was tied to rape and Woodard was convicted of murder, Innocence Project attorneys had to prove that the same person committed both crimes. They said they couldn't have done that without access to evidence provided by Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins' office.

"You've got to have very good lawyers with a lot of experience and skill ... working on both ends of this case, hard," Blackburn said. "And you've also got to have government power behind what you do."

Under Watkins, Dallas County has a program supervised by the Innocence Project of Texas that is reviewing hundreds of cases of convicts who have requested DNA testing to prove their innocence.

While the number of exonerations on Watkins' watch continues to grow, he said this one was a little different.

"I saw the human side of it, and seeing the human said of it just gives you more courage to advocate for issues like this," said Watkins, who had breakfast with Woodard on Tuesday morning. "It gives me that resolve to go even further to find out who (the killer) is so that we can get him into custody."

Woodard said his family was "small and scattered," although he pointed out a niece in the courtroom. He said his biggest regret was not being with his mother when she died.

"I can tell you what I'd like to do first: breathe fresh, free air," Woodard said during a news conference in the courtroom after the hearing. "I don't know what to expect. I haven't been in Dallas since buses were blue."

Man freed by DNA testing after 27 years,










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