Prison Commentary: Exonerees & Life After Death Row - Week 11

Prison Commentary: Exonerees & Life After Death Row - Week 11

Course: HNRS 302: Extreme Punishments: Life, Death, & Solitary Confinement
Written: March 31, 2014 

Published: March 6, 2017
© All Rights Reserved

Written during Destiny's junior year of college, Destiny poignantly provides commentary and reflection on readings for the week for a University Honors course titled "Extreme Punishments." Each reading required the illumination of the following 4 structure components: takeway(s), a free write, a quotation(s) of interest, and a question(s). 

Week 11: Life After Death Row (Pts. 2-4, Ch. 8-12)


  • Although proven innocent, community members may feel exonerees were released due to a technicalities (pg. 106)
  • Although proven innocent, exonerees are often stigmatized
  • Exonerees may loose their personal sense of self due to snap judgements from others and social stigma
  • Family support for both exonerees plays a primary well in their social, emotional, and coping "well-being" (pg. 122)
  • Exonerees look towards spiritual welfare, just as free citizens may in times of depression or despair (pg. 122)
  • We can refer to an exonerees ways of integrating into society as "strategies of incorporation" (pg. 135)
  • Even in forms of regular therapy, psychiatrist encourage patients to write or tell their stories--release their feelings (similar to the case with exonerees) (pg. 143)
  • Depending on the state, some exonerees may receive compensation (pg. 198)
  • Exonerees experience physical and hygienic health problems due to inadequate care of imprisonment (pg. 212)


This commentary highlights intricates of the reading that I found interesting. In an effort to describe the psychological, social, and physical hardship or trauma that exonerees face, I appreciated Johnson's classification of "crucible of deterioration" (pg. 107). As one will notice, describing the hardship or trauma that exonerees experience from a complete and comprehensive experience can take up 1 sentence, if not two. So in essence, I enjoyed the play on words with "crucible of deterioration." At the same time, the 3-word phrase provides the reader with definite imagery. I imagined pain and struggles bottled up in a hot container(crucible) and then the container itself(imagery as the human) deteriorating overtime.

By extension, I appreciate the perspective and insight that exonerees are dehumanized more than not (pg. 109). Earlier in the semester we often referred to inmates as being labeled "condemned." Exonerees may be labeled the same; however, I think it's noteworthy to make the tie in a deeper analysis of them being dehumanized. Considering the fact that they are wrongfully convicted of crimes they didn't commit, the aura of the word dehumanization is more fitting.

Another term that I found striking was "trauma survivors" (pg. 130).  It just has a nice ring to it. There's no doubt that exonerees are forced to experience some of the most devastating and psychologically damaging treatment on earth. So in some ways they are trauma victims. But yet, one can truly admire their perseverance, mental aptitude, and resilience. After watching the film last week and hearing the inmates ending commentaries, I made note of this.

On page 178, the authors used the words "inflammatory statements" to describe the false and misconstrued words by Sabrina Butler's prosecutor. In my takeaways, I reference the words snap judgements. I like the word inflammatory to describe statements like these that are either forced interpretations or filled with untrue puffery. Even in everyday life, we may encounter individuals who use inflammatory statements instead of mindful, true, and accurate statements. Although in everyday life, these "inflammatory statements" may not prosecute another person, they still can be detrimental, especially if they shed false perceptions of ones' character.

In closing, the last chapter highlights "big-picture reforms" that exonerees would like to tackle or improve. I wholeheartedly agree that this was an enlightening way to close the book (pg. 222). Eliminating racism all while, honoring the Constitution are two issues that I agree are of supreme importance.

I also appreciated the 10 step IRP plan for exonerees. Taking it a step further,  it would be advantageous to add time frames to each individual step to increase accountability and measurable results. But nonetheless, I do understand that this would be difficult.


  • "I said 'because I'm innocent, and you don't have any[thing] here for innocent people.'" (pg. 111)
  • "They was making up laws everyday for us, they wasn't going by the book." (pg. 113)
  • "For Bloodsworth, acceptance and incorporation became the keys to repairing and and re-creating his connection to people and humanity." (pg. 142)
  • "To be killed because society holds one's self and personhood in such low regard is the ultimate act of devaluation and destruction." (pg. 171)
  • "They rarely get the personal apology they want so much." (pg. 217)


  • Do you think the death penalty should be abolished in the U.S.? (pg. 127)
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