PRE-EXONERATION / RELEASE
1. Assess client’s social support and living situation
Talk to client about what s/he wants to do upon release. Where does s/he want to live and what does s/he want to do? Ask client to provide contact information for people who can provide housing and be supportive in other ways immediately upon release. Contact whomever client has named as a housing resource. If the client does not have any housing resources or family/friends who will agree to house her/him (even temporarily), research other housing options (apartments or extended stay hotels, local social service agencies, public housing agencies, “reentry housing” or shelters) Also research locations where client can get free food and clothes. Contact the other support people/resources client has identified or which client apparently needs and talk to them about client’s impending release (caution as to timing and confidentiality concerns) and determine whether they can support client when s/he gets out – in the way s/he described, or any other way. Some of the things client may need help with immediately are taking her/him to appointments, getting a cell phone and learning how to use it, getting her/his drivers license and other ID, help shopping, help learning how to use a computer, and help finding a job. Depending on client’s needs/desires/interests, this can also include outreach for these types of organizations and individuals that will help client pro bono or low cost:
- other exonerees
- social workers
- medical doctors
- social services (where to apply for below benefits)
- ophthalmologists and opticians
- employment agencies
- reentry organizations
Keep a list of all the resources being collected, with all important contact information and what help the person/organization can provide.
2. Locate and acquire personal documentation
Tell client to keep his prison ID upon release if possible Ask client what other important ID he has and where it is being kept (if possible, ask the prison if they have any of client’s ID). Help client or family members find or apply for the following:
- Social Security Card
- Birth certificate
- State ID or old driver’s license
- Documentation of Veteran status/DD-214 discharge papers
3. Assess client’s health needs
Physical Health – Find out if client has current health problems, if he takes any medication, and if he has been to the hospital at any time in the last year (and if so, for what). If on any medication, talk to prison medical unit about making sure he comes out with 10day-2week supply. Also find out if he needs a medical appointment of any kind immediately upon release, and if so, find a local provider to do this. Mental Health – Find out if client has any current mental health problems. If so, find out if he’s on any medication and talk to prison medical unit about making sure he comes out with a 10day-2week supply. Find a hospital or psychiatrist who can follow-up with client on the medication issue when he gets out. If there is any significant physical or mental health history, ask client if he will sign a release for you to request the prison records, including list of current medication. Call the prison medical records department and find out how to get the records from the prison.
POST-EXONERATION / RELEASE
1. Continue contacting people/organizations for support network
2. Determine what public benefits client may be eligible for
Food Stamps Cash Assistance Medicaid Veterans Benefits Supplemental Security Insurance (SSI)
3) Determine what legal assistance client needs
Have an attorney explain the state’s compensation laws (if any), civil lawsuit possibilities and relevant statutes of limitation and the need for record expungement. If possible, provide client with referrals for civil attorneys to help with these matters. Find out whether client has outstanding child support or other legal judgments against him and whether he needs legal counsel for those matters.
Please contact the social work department at the Innocence Project if you have questions about this list or need assistance in navigating the steps outlined. Suzy Salamy firstname.lastname@example.org or Kyana Champion email@example.com.