How were the prison experiences of the exonerated men you talked to different from those of prisoners who didn't believe that they were innocent?
Well, it's very, very hard because most of them were there for rape, and people who are in prison for rape are at the bottom of the ladder. Anthony Robinson said that for the first year, he told everybody that he was innocent. Everybody he met in prison. And then someone -- a guard or some security official -- said, "Stop saying that because you'll get killed. If you didn't do it and you're in prison, that means that you are weak. And they'll kill you. So, just stop saying that." And Anthony said, "You know, I've never thanked him. But I know he saved my life. And I just stopped saying it."
Because there is some way that, if other prisoners believed he had done it, he would have been regarded as stronger and tougher?
Yes. I mean, the ethos of jail is terrible. And the rapists, they were fair game for everybody. For everything.
That struck me as interesting, too, because in order to get exonerated, you need this physical evidence for DNA testing, and rape is obviously one of the crimes that it's easiest to get physical evidence from.
That's right. So, most of those people were there for rape. And usually with mistaken eyewitnesses -- women who said, "I'm sure it's him. I know it's him." And, of course, it's not.
Have any of the men contacted, or been contacted by, the victims?
Most of the victims don't want to be involved. Many of them still believe they were right.
How can they still believe they were right in the face of scientific evidence?
They say, "I know, because it was me he raped. He was there for one hour. I saw it. I can't make a mistake. I don't care about the DNA." The DNA that exonerated Neil Miller, for example, matched somebody else who was in prison in Massachusetts for something else. But the woman just said, "I don't care. I'm not participating in another trial." They told her, "Look. We have to let him go. Now that we know who the real guy is, we are letting him go because we can't charge him with rape." The man can say it was consensual, unless she comes and says, "I was raped."
It's hard. Don't forget, those people went through hell, those women. The police show them a line-up of pictures, and the victim can't identify anybody. And they say, "OK, we'll show them to you a lot." But then they'll bring pictures of five other people, and the only person the victim has seen twice is one person, so he looks familiar and she identifies him. After a while, I guess you can't live with doubt. And so you get more and more and more and more sure.
Are you hopeful for any of these men?
It's very hard. Some of them, I think, are very broken, very broken. They can't live on their own. They live with relatives. They don't have work. They feel like nothing. I think what they should get is money, enough to live on their own.
Do you think they have the emotional wherewithal to live on their own?
Well, that's the thing. I think they do. I think they should have enough money to rent an apartment by themselves. I think they should get a job, and if they can't get a job, they should get enough money so they don't need a job. After a while, I don't really know how they even have the energy to look for work.
Are any of them getting any kind of therapy or counseling?
Well, that's another thing that it's very hard to get when you don't have a job and you don't have insurance to pay for your therapy. It should be in the law that they must get therapy. Sometimes, they go to a sort of free clinic, but there's nothing really prepared for them. Look what they're doing with the POWs that were in Iraq for three weeks, and then think of those people who were imprisoned for 20 years in this horrendous, horrendous, place.