‘I couldn’t even feed my children. I’m barely feeding myself’: Lack of Compensation Hinders Michigan Exoneree’s Newfound Freedom
A story published yesterday by FOX 17 West Michigan about exoneree Donya Davis and the undue hurdles he’s facing underlines the urgent need for post-release services and compensation for wrongfully convicted people.
Davis was exonerated in late 2014. He’d spent seven years in prison after he was wrongfully convicted in 2007 of armed rape and robbery. Working with the Western Michigan University Thomas M. Cooley Law School Innocence Project, Davis secured his freedom after results from DNA testing revealed that that he was innocent and another man had committed the crime.
Recovering from his experience in prison and the time he lost is proving to be taxing and complicated for Davis. The fact that Michigan is one of the 20 states that does not compensate or provide any type of reentry serves to exonerees simply exacerbates the difficulties that he’s facing.
Prior to being wrongfully convicted, Davis was preparing to start a career as a paralegal, reports FOX 17 West Michigan. Since being released, he’s fought to get his record expunged to get a job. Financially, he’s in dire straits. I couldn’t even feed my children. I’m barely feeding myself. I couldn’t get a job based on their mistake.
Marla Mitchell-Cichon of the Western Michigan University Thomas M. Cooley Law School Innocence Project explained that there are other local exonerees like Davis who similarly face unjust hardship.
“There are no programs in the state of Michigan that I am aware of that specifically focus on exonerees,” said Mitchell-Cichon. “I spend a lot of time thinking about, and frankly worrying about, what is going to happen to my client.”
According to the article, there is a proposed bill, SB 291, in the senate that would provide Michigan exonerees with $60,000 for every year of wrongful incarceration, if it passes. In the meantime, however, local exonerees are fraught with trying to figure out how to make ends meet.
Davis is seeking work as a cook but settling for catering jobs.
“They just threw me back in the jungle,” said Davis to FOX 17 West Michigan. “So it’s not like I’ve been home enjoying life. I can’t say that. I haven’t had a chance to enjoy life yet.”
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