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Exonerees Struggle With Life After Prison

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Last week, the Herald-Sun of Durham, NC published an article about Darryl Hunt, who was cleared of a murder charge after 19 years in prison. Now, over seven years after his release on Christmas Eve, 2004, he still suffers the psychological effects of his incarceration but helps others readjust to life after prison through The Darryl Hunt Project for Freedom and Justice.

Hunt was convicted of the 1984 murder of Deborah Sykes, though investigations later proved that another man’s DNA was found on Sykes. Hunt said, “When I went to trial for my life in May of 1985, the prosecutors and police knew that I did not commit this crime. They knew who did because he raped and stabbed another woman in February. I was one vote away from the death penalty. I think about it every day and know that God blessed me.” Still, it took nearly twenty years for his conviction to be overturned. He has since become the subject of a documentary film, and works to help others who were in his situation through the organization that bears his name.

Hunt still has nightmares about his time in prison, and says that when he enters a room he needs to find a reflective surface to be sure of what’s behind him. Being free is one thing; being able to lead a fulfilling life after prison is another. To that end, he founded The Darryl Hunt Project for Freedom and Justice. The Project has three main goals:

• To provide assistance to individuals who have been wrongfully incarcerated.
• To help ex-offenders obtain the skills, guidance, and support they need as they return to life outside the prison system.
• To advocate for changes in the justice system so innocent people won’t spend time in prison.

(via The Darryl Hunt Project for Freedom and Justice)

We have often spoken about the need for support for exonerees returning home after what is often many years in prison and how incredibly difficult it is for someone who’s been incarcerated for so long to have a happy, fulfilling life after being freed. Most states, and especially Pennsylvania, simply don’t do enough to provide support. Organizations like the Darryl Hunt Project can step in where state legislation falls short, but can only do so much. We would like to see more policies in place to offer counseling and other resources to those recently released from prison, as well as adequate compensation for the wrongly convicted.

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