After serving seven years in a prison for a crime he did not commit, Ronald Ross walked out into the free world on February 22, 2013. Wrongfully convicted of attempted murder in 2006, Ross spent seven unnecessary years behind bars. Yet his lawyers claim that he has no desire to retaliate against the justice system. Ross would rather focus on regaining his life.
Ross spoke with about his new life on the outside. Ross claims to ABC , “I’m just like a newborn baby, got to take one step at a time.” The lawyers of the Northern California Innocence Project worked diligently on Ross’ case in order to exonerate him from a wrongful conviction. The challenges for Ross may, unfortunately, become more difficult before becoming any easier.
It is difficult to imagine the psychological toll of a wrongful conviction. It was loosely described to me as if one is relocated to a foreign country where the language and the customs are very different. Nothing is remotely the same, therefore the brain must learn to adapt to the foreign environment creating new physical pathway of thought processes. In an exceedingly new environment, one has no choice but to ask for help in order to function. The Innocence Project of Florida employs a social services professional who specifically works with the exonerees to ease the transition from behind bars to life on the outside. These wrongfully convicted individuals spent many years, even decades, in prison.
James Bain, exonerated by the Innocence Project of Florida in 2009 after 35 years of wrongful incarceration, said he was very worried about transitioning from his life in prison to life on the outside but felt a sigh of relief when he found out that IPF would provide him transitioning services. He states that the transition was incredibly difficult but is glad IPF was there for support after his exoneration.
Serving time in prison can feel like being frozen in time. While the world continues to grow and advance, those convicted must remain separate, and thus causing a disconnect between life before and after prison. Inmates may experience similar anxieties and thoughts, however, the experiences of one inmate are never exactly the same as the other. Every life, every case, and every exoneration is highly individualized. The successful assimilation back into society depends greatly on the social and familial support system.
Having a family for support during the entire process has shown to increase the success of the individual. Since the wrongfully convicted individual is not the only one affected, this year Steppin’ Out with The Innocence Project of Florida is paying tribute the family members who lost a loved one for decades to a wrongful conviction. Join James and other exonerees on April 5, 2013, from 6-9 p.m. at the Four Seasons Hotel in downtown Miami, Florida. Click here to find out more about Steppin’ Out 2013.