7 maladjusted ways for coping with a wrongful conviction
A wrongful conviction by a self-righteous adversarial justice system understandably leaves you powerless. You likely find the “system” too huge to fight, so your first reaction after getting out is to adjust to this new tragic normal. Here are your major avoidance options to get on with life, or cope with what’s left of it.
1. Move to a ban-the-box municipality.
Search for websites that list states and cities where employers are prohibited from asking about a felony on a job application. You still must face the issue later in the hiring process.
At least you will have opportunity to work without reliving the trauma of the wrongful conviction. And in most cases you can start receiving a steady income, to avoid slipping into homelessness, or as a way to climb out of homelessness and return to some freedom of choice.
You still may face employers who don’t care how innocent you are, believing the mere fact you went to prison makes you tainted somehow. Employers may reject you once they find the conviction, and if asked will tell you it was for some other reason. If you currently do not live near a BTB municipality or state, you may have to move far from family, who could well be your most stable source of supports.
2. Find employers who hire despite a conviction record.
At least you can honestly check “Yes” to the felony question on the job application, and hope you still have a chance for employment. Once you get the job, you’re at least not at the mercy of the welfare state and other supports that likely limit your freedom of choice.
These typically are low paying jobs, rarely with a career track that will optimize your economic purpose in life. You may find yourself in a trap of accepting a substandard work environment, since you likely dare not risk losing a job so difficult to find.
3. Go back to school.
Attend a college or vocational school, if you can qualify for scholarships or other means (predatory student loans?) to cover tuition.
Allows you a few years to establish your reputation as a reliable person, prior to seeking a job. Or perhaps learn how to start your own business. Otherwise, improves your hireability once you finish the degree.
Still must face the felony question on most job applications after completing school. Most careers positions will not hire you, despite the scholarly credentials. Stuck with student loans with little opportunity to pay them back.
4. Depend on family.
If fortunate enough to have family who continue to believe in your innocence, they may see it their loving purpose to actively support you.
Family members tend to know your specific needs. They typically can serve you better than those administering public assistance. And less likely to retraumatize you with invasive questions about the wrongful conviction.
You likely have to give up some freedom of choices to maintain in their good graces. You can see yourself becoming a burden to them, and they may well concur. You may even find yourself slipping into despair and drug use just to cope.
5. Rely on charity.
File for public assistance. Go to food banks. Get medical assistance at free or low-cost clinics. File for disability, if qualified. Acclimate to having less, to living hand to mouth. Struggle with homelessness.
Less dependence up family. Perhaps access more items than what family members can afford, or be willing to offer. At least you can get some healthcare while excluded from employment or other means for affording health insurance.
You find yourself at the mercy of the welfare state and other supports that likely limit your freedom of choice. Applying for such services risks reliving the traumatizing experience of the wrongful experience. Besides, self-sufficiency is a significant need this option compromises. Learned helplessness easily sets in, pulling you into more pain.
6. Try returning to prison.
At least it’s familiar. You may feel you must revert to some survival crime. So you get arrested, jailed, and returned to prison. But it’s less shocking this time since you now know the process and finally did something to warrant that process.
Stable food and shelter.
Returning to prison. Confirming prosecutor’s and police initial false impression of you. Involvement in actual criminal activity can make you ineligible for compensation upon exoneration, according to some compensation statutes.
7. Give up.
Access drugs somehow, to dull the pain. Check out with suicidal thoughts, perhaps you even consider attempting it. This most severe of avoidance options cannot be ignored. Rates of overdoses and suicide are at epidemic levels. And the silent shame of wrongful convictions we dare not overlook.
Dulls the pain. If entertaining suicidal thoughts, you may be convincing yourself that this is the only way to stop the pain. On a positive note, if you ever get this drastic on the downside, you’re not far from envisioning the upside. After hitting rock bottom, you typically have nowhere to turn but up. In such moments, obstacles can be recast as challenges, which can be converted in opportunities. Which Value Relating exists to support.
Besides being self-evidently the worst of these, those who give up can never know if they could have turned around their fate. If considering the drastic option of doing yourself in, why not consider the radical option of standing up to this wrong with our support?
Perhaps you can think of other options. Or more pros and cons of the ones mentioned here. Add your insight in the comments below. And show appreciation for others contributing their value. Let’s work together to overcome wrongful convictions however we can.
Steph Turner is the founder of Value Relating, offering the wrongly convicted a radically unique way to overcome the injustice they endure.