‘It’s going to be a culture shock’: Kevin Strickland is free, now what?

National

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — For many, the story of most exonerees end on the day they are released and walk out of prison, but this day is only the beginning of new struggles ahead.

“They don’t have anything in place for folks who are separated and released back into society,” said Darryl Burton. “When I came home, there was no support system for me. I came home I was homeless, couldn’t get a job for two years.”

After 43 years behind bars, Kevin Strickland is leaving prison a free man.

A judge ruled he was wrongfully convicted in a triple murder in 1978.

“They knew from day one I didn’t commit this crime, they knew I was an easy mark,” Strickland said after he was released from prison. “Never give up”

Now comes the many challenges he will face after incarceration.

“Everything he remembers about society when he left in the 70s, they don’t exist anymore,” Burton said.

“This is going to be like Alice in Wonderland, it’s like he has been locked in a time capsule. It’s going to be a culture shock.”

Darryl Burton is speaking from experience. He was exonerated in 2008 after spending close to 25 years in prison, wrongfully convicted of murder.

“I’m happy for him, but I’m sad also. I think about what I lost, but this guy lost almost twice what I lost. When you go in at 18 and come out in a wheelchair? That’s just tragic,” Burton said.

Missouri, a state with some of the strictest compensation laws in the country, compensates only if people are exonerated through DNA evidence.

Strickland will walk away with nothing.

Burton’s group Miracle of Innocence will help with this transition, from simple things like getting a cellphone to providing counseling.

“Whatever it is he needs, we are going to try to help him with it,” Burton said. “He’s coming home to a world he has no clue about.”

A GoFundMe was created to help Strickland with this process. As of 9:30 p.m. Tuesday, over $200,000 has been raised.

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