Former inmates discuss social isolation in prison

FOX Files
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ST. LOUIS – They spent years behind bars for crimes they didn’t commit. Two former prisoners spoke with Fox 2 about surviving the pandemic and coping with feelings you may have about the walls closing in.

Russ Faria and Josh Kezer both served prison time for crimes they did not commit. They both offered their unique perspectives to help you keep your sanity during this time of social isolation.

We first interviewed Kezer more than a decade ago before his murder conviction in Scott County was overturned. He spent 16 years behind bars. Today, he lives in Columbia, Missouri.

“All people know is their fear. The thing that I want to communicate to them is that through all my experience of being incarcerated as a young man—I was incarcerated at 18 years old—I was immediately caged with violent offenders who wanted to physically harm me and one thing is consistent about how I got through each of those instances, each of those attacks,” Kezer said. “Fear never helped me. At no point did feeling afraid, being afraid, reacting afraid ever assist me in any of those situations.”

“Faith in Christ helped me every time. Peace of mind helped me every time. Reacting never helped. Responding thoughtfully helped.”

Kezer says today’s isolation does not remind him of prison. He finds connection with Titan, his pit bull rescue dog.

“When I rescued him from the Humane Society, I felt like I was bringing him from prison into his castle and I wanted him to feel free,” he said.

Russ Faria was locked up for three and a half years while prosecutors at the time ignored evidence that Pam Hupp could’ve been a killer.

“If you want to feel like that (prison) lockdown, you’d have to go in your bathroom,” he said. “Take somebody else in there with you that you know—maybe a perfect stranger or someone you might not like or might not like the way they smell or act—and you guys spend all of your time locked in there with them all day every day. We only got out for an hour a day.”

Faria finds peace working on motorcycles.

“It keeps my sanity for me and we’re keeping a lot of other people’s sanity you know because motorcycles are a good therapy for people,” he said. “People that own them know that they call it two-wheel therapy or wind therapy. So, you know we’re keeping people sane by keeping their motorcycles going for them.”

Faria said the cliché about stopping to smell the flowers is true. He does it.

“I was asked why I did that and I said, ‘Sometimes you might be in a place where you don’t get to see flowers or smell flowers’ and so when you do get to see them you appreciate it a lot more,” he said.

Kezer and Faria sent some pictures of what helps them remember their freedom during this time of social isolation.

Josh Kezer said he saw this 2009 Fox Files report on his release for the first time on Thursday. Here’s what he said on his Facebook page, followed by our 11-year-old report.

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The Fox Files are groundbreaking investigations you won’t see anywhere else. The series is well known for breaking the Pam Hupp story nationally. The reports that led to the exoneration of Russ Faria. But, it is far from the only time in which our investigations led to overturned convictions and freedom for the wrongfully accused. The Fox Files investigations do not fit into just one category, other than the fact our reports shine a light on issues and corruption in ways you won’t see anywhere else.

You won’t know what to expect as our reports often take twists that surprise even Fox Files investigator Chris Hayes.

“You never know where the truth will lead and you have to keep searching for it, even when you think you might be done,” Hayes said.

From getting arrested for trying to cover a public meeting, to getting law enforcement involved in his report about a daycare fight club, the Fox Files has been at the forefront of breaking news investigations in the St. Louis area.

It doesn’t stop just in St. Louis. The Pam Hupp/Russ Faria story took him to Lincoln County. Fox 2 was the first to report, nationally, on the synthetic drug epidemic when it began in St. Charles County, MO. In St. Louis County, our Fox Files reporting led to the dismantling of some police departments, including the departments of Uplands Park and Jennings. And in the City of St. Louis, our investigations led to swift government actions, such as our report that led to the Governor’s ordered shut down of a daycare.

Our reporting in St. Louis also led to former Missouri Governor Eric Greitens’ exclusive Fox Files interviews involving his court fight to oust the chief prosecutor while attempting to prove that political corruption led to an illegal overturning of a state election.

“It’s not always bad news,” Hayes said about a recent victory for a restaurant in his coverage of a St. Clair County Illinois issue. A Fox Files report, exposing a health department’s mistake over the COVID-19 pandemic, led to an overturning of a decision, allowing the business to open for limited inside dining.

Another investigation took us to Madison County, where prosecutors praised Fox 2’s coverage while shutting down an illegal synthetic drug business – and to Monroe County, where we uncovered key evidence in the Chris Coleman murder trial.

Even the national media, continues reaching out to local affiliate Fox 2 KTVI and the Fox Files, for its work on cases that are important to St. Louis. When you see a network television’s coverage of St. Louis, you’ll often see that they gathered information that was first uncovered right here.

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