PBS NewsHour Examines Challenges Individuals Face After Incarceration with “Searching for Justice: Life After Prison” Series

Arlington, VA (October 27, 2021)— Beginning on Monday, November 15th and airing over the course of that week, PBS NewsHour will broadcast a five-part series, “Searching for Justice: Life After Prison”. With support from The Kendeda Fund, NewsHour will look at the challenges individuals face after incarceration — challenges made more difficult by the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic — from reconnecting with family and friends, to finding work and housing, to staying out of prison or jail. The November series is an update to NewsHour’s multi-platform series, “Searching for Justice,” which launched in December 2020.

“Searching for Justice: Life After Prison” includes the stories of older incarcerated individuals, who often face discrimination, few prospects for housing and employment, as well as barriers to health care when they are released; profiles survivors of domestic abuse attempting to start life anew after leaving prison; and examines the changing culture around second chance hires. The series also provides an update to the stories of Michael Plummer and Ricky Kidd, both of which were featured in “Searching for Justice” and are navigating new lives after spending decades in prison.

NewsHour’s broadcast reports include:

Elderly Prisoners:
Nearly 11% of the total prison population is over the age of 55. Older incarcerated individuals have substantially higher rates of health issues and face operational and logistical barriers to health care. They also often experience discrimination and few prospects for housing and employment.

For this report, the NewsHour team visits 60 West in Rocky Hill, CT, a nursing home that’s one of just two of its kind in the U.S. Opened in 2013, the 95-bed facility caters mainly to paroled prison inmates who are referred to the facility by the Connecticut Department of Corrections and the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. Getting a bed in a nursing home is difficult for former prisoners because of the stigma attached to having a criminal record and several nursing homes across the country refuse to accept this population when this type of care is needed.

Survivors of Domestic Violence:
In 1985, Rosemary Dyer killed her husband after being in an emotionally and physically abusive marriage for eight years. Dyer spent 34 years in a California state prison and was released in April 2020 at age 68. She re-entered a world unfamiliar to her – cell phones, the internet, and a world grappling with the onset of the COVID 19 pandemic.

While there are ample resources for the formerly incarcerated who struggle with addiction and substance abuse, there are fewer resources for survivors of domestic abuse. Additionally, the ongoing impact of trauma can often result in barriers to seeking help. In this piece, NewsHour looks at the unique set of obstacles that formally incarcerated survivors of domestic abuse face when returning home.

Michael Plummer:
It’s now been more than a year and a half since Michael Plummer was released from prison. NewsHour profiled him last year as he navigated a world upended by the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. After being locked up 23 years ago as a 17 year old, Plummer discusses the difficulties he faced reestablishing his identification, applying for a loan, opening a bank account for the first time and reconnecting with his daughter.

This piece takes a look at Plummer’s transition to a job in Washington D.C., where he trains other men to mentor at-risk youth in the city’s juvenile detention facilities and advises recently released prisoners on how to navigate life on the outside.

Shelley Winner & Background Checks:
Shelley Winner spent nearly two years in prison for possession of crystal meth but now works at Microsoft corporate, supporting its customers with Surface tablet. While doing time, she took advantage of prison programming, and decided she wanted a career in tech. When she got out, she worked with Code Tenderloin, a San Francisco non-profit focused on tech, to help her with her resume and interview skills.

Within three months of her release, Winner was offered a job in retail at Microsoft but the offer of employment was rescinded after a background check revealed her felony conviction. Microsoft eventually hired Winner due to a recent statute in San Francisco that requires employers to prove that a prior conviction was relevant to the job being sought. Winner’s story demonstrates the challenge formerly incarcerated people encounter when trying to apply to jobs, as well as a shift in culture surrounding second chance hires.

Ricky Kidd:
Two years ago, Ricky Kidd was released from prison after serving 23 years for murders he didn’t commit. Kidd is newly married with a young daughter, has started his own motivational speaking business, and is working with groups like the conservative Koch Foundation to push for more funding for wrongfully convicted people and for broader criminal justice reform. However, years in prison continue to take a toll, including on his health and reoccurring trauma.

He also has no savings, and Missouri is one of several states where he’s not entitled to any compensation for his wrongful conviction. This report looks at the issues wrongfully convicted people face after leaving prison – from the trauma to the lack of job skills, health issues and compensation.

Press Contact: Ella Richardson, erichardson (at) newshour (dot) org