23 years lost and nothing offered in return

When Lamonte McIntyre was exonerated for a double murder in October, he walked out of a Kansas prison with a clean record – but not a dime to his name. After losing 23 years of his life behind bars, the state is offering him nothing upon his release. 

Kansas is one of 18 states that offer wrongfully convicted prisoners no compensation at all upon their release.

This is a nightmare. 

Lamonte McIntyre and I were both arrested in 1993 for crimes we did not commit. I was refused an attorney despite the fact that I would soon be jobless and homeless. The arrest and trial cost me $25,000 in legal fees and more than a year of my life. 

No compensation despite my not guilty verdict. 

Lamonte McIntyre lost 23 years of his life. 

As angry as I still am today - 25 years after my arrest -  it pales in comparison to the outrage that I feel on behalf of Lamonte McIntyre. Eighteen states in our country can lock an innocent person behind bars for decades and offer nothing in terms of compensation. 

These states are Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Wyoming.

I oppose the death penalty for many reasons, but one is that mistakes are made. Our criminal justice system is not infallible. Since 1973, 156 individuals have been exonerated while on death row. Without advances in genetic testing and the guilty consciences of dishonest eye witnesses, these 156 innocent individuals would have been killed by the state.

Horrific. 

Imagine what it must be like to be wrongfully imprisoned for more than two decades and then receive nothing by way of recompense. 

When Lamonte McIntyre went to prison, the internet was in its infancy. Nothing was purchased online. Newsweek published an article scoffing the future of the internet, laughing at the idea that people would gets news, learn, or buy airline tickets online.

Cellular telephones were the size of shoe boxes and restricted to cars.

Words like "app" and concepts like "social media" did not exist. 

GPS was limited to military use only. 

Kale was still just a weed. 

Now McIntyre must enter a world for which he will not be equipped. He was imprisoned in an analog world at the age of 17 and is now expected to make a living in a digital world. 

He did nothing wrong. He lost almost 9,000 days of his life. The state offers him no assistance whatsoever.

What the hell are these lawmakers thinking?

Thankfully, McIntyre did not waste his time in prison. He earned a GED and took college classes. He got a start. Upon his release, he was offered a full scholarship to Metropolitan Community College–Penn Valley. The president of the college heard his story and was moved to act. 

McIntyre plans to finish his degree. Perhaps go onto barbering school. He hopes to one day own his own shop.

I'm still waiting to hear about the four year university that will step up and offer him the tuition free bachelor's and master's degrees that he also deserves. The one the state should already be paying for amongst so many other things. 

Back in 1993, I got lucky. I was arrested for a crime I did not commit. It cost me $25,000 and a year of my life. Rather than starting college, I became homeless. Eventually I was taken in by a family of Jehovah's Witnesses. I worked two full time jobs for more than a year to pay my legal fees. 

It was a terrible time in my life, but I was lucky. I didn't go to prison.

Lamonte McIntyre was not so lucky. He was arrested in 1993 and has been behind bars ever since. While he was locked up, I graduated college. Began a 20 year teaching career. Launched a DJ company. Met Elysha and began our family. Wrote novels and magazine columns. Musicals. This blog. I started performing onstage. Traveled the country. Watched fireworks with my kids and swam in the ocean and drove down the highway with the windows down and the radio blaring. 

All that Lamonte McIntyre lost, and Kansas can't try to make the next 23 years a little easier for him by compensating him for lost time? Stolen time?

Horrific. Disgusting. Outrageous. Immoral.   

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