Thursday, February 26, 2009

Life after exoneration isn't easy. The side effect that most states don't really deal with after releasing those wrongfully convicted of hideous crimes is that the lives of those individuals can't ever be restored to what they should have been. Everyone in Colorado ought to know that Tim Masters is not a murderer, but a year after finally being released, he still can't get a job.

As Mr. Masters talks about in the interview, he does not have the life he feels he should have by this stage. He's a 37 year-old man with no wife, no kids, and no employment. The charges may have been dismissed, but anyone running a background check on him is still going to see the murder charge existed once upon a time. I would hope that the word has gotten around that state that the conviction and resulting 10 years in prison were undeserved and that Mr. Masters did nothing more than draw some scary sketches when he was 15. But employers in Colorado still aren't quite willing to take him on. Of course, there's also the minor detail of those 10 lost years when he wasn't able to build any work skills or blaze any career paths.

Sadly, the state that spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to convict and incarcerate Tim Masters doesn't appear to be spending any money to help him recover some semblance of a life after that wrongful incarceration. He's doing better than a lot of exonerees. He may be struggling, but he has been able to make an income for himself. Many others have fewer options than Mr. Masters has.

States need to be doing much, much more to help the Tim Masters of the world integrate back into the real world. There has to be more Colorado can do than put an asterisk next to that murder charge in their conviction database. Give him a little cash, get him some job skills, and pound the pavement with him to convince every potential employer that Tim Masters is no murderer and would pose no threat to any of that employer's other employees. The state stole the best years of his life (perhaps not maliciously, but that hardly matters now), so the least it can do is provide him a path to a good life now.


Anonymous said...

Public defender huh? Something to think about: It doesn't take a false murder conviction to ruin your life; our judicial system takes away peoples equal opportunities and freedoms on a daily basis. Every time they arrest some teen over a bogus drug charge, which turns into a suspended/revoked license and usually 2 or 3 probation violations, and very much the same problem with getting a good job. I'm happy I have never been accused of something so horrible, but all the same myself and many others in my generation have had our lives taken away from us in much the same way by a greedy, hypocritical "judicial" system.

S said...

Amen, Anon. It doesn't take much at all. Even an ultimately dismissed charge, based on a false accusation to begin with, can follow you or at least have a profound impact on your life at the time the charge is filed. See my post from August 3 to find out how I feel about that kind of thing.

Anonymous said...

What a shame. That man is now dead inside, and will probably never recover from a decade-long prison stay. Rarely do I feel for criminals, but I wonder how many of them have been jailed for things they didn't commit simply to fill a quota or to make someone look good. The flip is also true. How many have been exonerated for things they DID do? But back to Masters: that man is now a non-productive person in society. They robbed him over his childhood and then his most important years, those years where we all figure out ourselves. No one can live with anger like that without becoming self-destructive or demonstrating sociopathy. Can you blame him? What a damn shame.

S said...

You've touched a little bit on one of the reasons why I think it's so important that states do provide much better integration services and support for exonerees: because they are at risk. I think states should do more to make sure these guys don't go down a self-destructive path.

mikeb302000 said...

Thanks for a great post. I guess there's much more awareness needed in this area. The Innocence Project is doing some good work. But more is needed, for sure.

Anonymous said...

This could be a landmark case. You see, the thing is, the issue of not being able to have had a family. Call me crazy, but I do think you can put a value on that. How much? Just ball-parking: $2-billion? I don't know, but I suspect it could be quite high.

Bottom line? Absolute bankrupting of those police and prosecutors. I want to see each individual cop and everybody in the D.A.'s office involved in this case completely bankrupted. Each cop, each lawyer, their entire families; even their extended families.

This has gone on long enough. Thousands and thousands of cases of malicious prosecution and incompetent police investigations across America. Tens or even hundreds of thousands of innocent people in jail. All because many cops and district attorneys are lazy, stupid and incompetent.

Police and prosecutors need to be punished. There is only one way: MONEY. These cops and attorneys and their families need to be completely wiped out financially. And if some (many) of them commit suicide as a result, so be-it. In fact, given that their incompetence has led to the executions of many innocent men, these suicides would be justice.

You say this will discourage cops and attorneys from joining the police forces and D.A.'s offices? Fine, that's the way it should be. Incompetent, useless failures like a lot of these cops and district attorneys should never have been allowed into public service and public office in the first place. Then we will get the high quality people we need in those roles, and we will raise the salaries accordingly, to pay them what they deserve.

S said...

Dare I say it, Anon, but you're preaching to the choir! :) I can't stand the argument that if we actually ask our police and prosecutors to do their jobs properly, within the bounds of the law, and fairly, we're somehow discouraging people from going into those professions.

Linda Shinn said...

I agree completely with th other posts.
Years ago, my son was pulled over, the police told him, "Because he was a long hair obviously out to score drugs." They searched his truck and found a plastic bag with laudry detergent in it and claimed it was coccaine, and arrested him and charged him with possession and use of drugs.
It was Thanksgiving Day, and he was going to his girlfriend's house a block away, but they would not go there where she would have backed up his story. They would not smell the perfume odor of the laundry detergent, as he asked them to.
They didn't allow him to call anyone for FIVE hours.
It went to court, where all charges were dropped, because it WAS only a plastic bag of laundry detergent. But he ended up with a "record" saying he "had been arrested and charged with possesion and use of drugs, and that charges had been dropped due to lack of evidence."
They did everything wrong, and he did nothing wrong, and still ended up with a record to deal with.
Thes kinds of things happen a LOT more than the general public knows, and until you or someone you love is victimized by the police this way, it is hard to believe how scary it is.
We knew they had a quota of drug arrests to make, and were under pressure to come up with "numbers" we were afraid that they might go so far as to "plant" evidence in his truck or on him to make that quota. People need to be able to be reimbursed for the damage this does to their lives, and be given substancial help to get back on their feet.

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