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I spent 44 months in "reform" school, jail and prison. Except for the three weeks I was in the Atlanta jail 49 years ago on a trumped-up charge of parading without a permit and insurrection against the state of Georgia, I did the crimes (mostly civil disobedience) that I was charged with. These weren't the most pleasant months of my life. I suffered from violence, rape and the pathetic incompetence and arrogance of staff at several institutions. But compared with most in our penal system, I got off easy.

I can't imagine what it would be like to serve 30 years for a crime I didn't commit. Not just locked-up, but locked-up because prosecutors withheld exculpatory evidence, because the lawyers were inexperienced, because the convicting jury was all white, because a witness lied. Not just locked up, but held on death row, suffering the torture of decades of solitary confinement, waiting for the executioner to ply his trade. Just going on living, separated from kin and friends, would become a burden. Staying sane would be miraculous.

Somehow, Glenn Ford, a black Louisianan just three years younger than I, managed to do so. Arrested, railroaded, convicted, incarcerated and sentenced to die because of lies and prosecutorial misconduct. His dogged attorneys finally pried him out of the hands of the state last week. Exonerated and freed after 362 months' incarceration, 348 of them behind bars at one of the nation's foulest prisons, Ford has joined a world that is far different than the one he left when Ronald Reagan had not yet begun his second term.

Andrew Cohen at The Atlantic writes:

Anywhere he wanted to go, the jubilant defense attorneys told a hungry Glenn Ford late Tuesday afternoon as they left the television cameras behind, piled into their car, and left the yawning grounds of Louisiana's notorious Angola prison. Ford was hungry, very hungry, because from the moment he had learned that he would be released from death row—after serving 30 years there for a murder he did not commit—he had decided that he would not eat another morsel of prison food.

On their way back to New Orleans, driving on State Highway 61, there was this one restaurant that Ford had wanted to try, but it had closed for the day. And then the relieved lawyers and dazed client passed a gas station that served Church's fried chicken and Krispy Kreme doughnuts. Doughnuts? Ford pondered the possibility until the car was about a mile further down the road. "Look, if you want doughnuts we'll get you doughnuts," even if they come from a gas station, attorney Gary Clements told his longtime client.

So they pulled a U-turn and arrived back at the gas station. The lawyers got out of the car and started to walk in. Ford stayed in the car. It did not immediately occur to him that he would have to open the door himself to get out. When you are on death row for 30 years, when every door in your life is opened and closed for you every day by guards, you forget that you have to reach out and grasp the handle to move from one place to another. "He was just sitting there and waiting for someone to come and tell him he could get out," Clements told me.

That moment, the moment Glenn Ford hesitated inside that car on his way to get his first doughnut since Ronald Reagan was president, crystallizes the challenges that exonerees face upon their release from prison. In an instant they go from a world where they have virtually no choices to a world in which their choices seem limitless. And they go from a world in which they have no control—over opening a door, for example—to one in which they can, indeed, control their own fate. […]

Just before Glenn Ford walked out of prison late Tuesday afternoon, the state of Louisiana—which had wrongfully charged, convicted, and incarcerated him for 30 years—gave him a $20 dollar debit card for his troubles. (As recently as 2011, the state gave only $10 to inmates leaving prison.) When you combine the debit card with the balance in Ford's prison account, the total he received upon his departure from Angola was $20.04. He left, too, with some photographs and with his medicine, all in two small boxes. He left behind his headphones. […]

Soon, Ford's lawyers will ask Louisiana to compensate him for his wrongful conviction and incarceration. By statute, Louisiana today entitles people like Ford to get $25,000 for each year they were wrongfully imprisoned, a figured capped at $250,000. Ford also will be entitled to up to $80,000 for what the law euphemistically calls "loss of life opportunities." If Louisiana honors its commitment to this man, as it should, he will receive in the neighborhood of $330,000 for 30 years of an unjust sentence—roughly $11,000 per year.


Blast from the Past. At Daily Kos on this date in 2003$90 billion for war:

Bush will ask Congress for $90B for War after the shooting starts. And, that number assumes just one month of combat. While some of that money would go to homeland security and aid to Israel, the bulk of it -- over $80 billion, would be for combat operations.

This expense will push the budget deficit well into the $400 billion range, and that's assuming a short war. The occupation and reconstruction will likely cost hundreds of billions more, not all of it recoverable by Iraqi oil revenues.

And Bush's plan to pay for it all? More tax cuts.


Tweet of the Day:

CNN is giving lessons on how to hijack a plane. Complete with flight simulator. FOr days now.
@notlikenormal



On today's Kagro in the Morning show, another plutocrat lines up to claim that his enormous privilege is just like Nazi persecution. Freedom Industries CEO wants to be paid for "work" in bankruptcy. Greg Dworkin takes the reins and explores nothing less than the origin of the universe, even as sequestration threatens to slash science funding. "Science Deniers Are Freaking Out About Cosmos." ACA enrollment passes the 5 million mark. Christie's still toast. Edwin Edwards is back. "Groucho Marx's Republican Party." GA considers the craziest new gun law going. Wells Fargo accused of routinely forging mortgage documents. But aren't you victims the real Hitlers here?


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