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Robin Friedman


The majority of information related to the postprison experiences of exonerated individuals is frequently found in reports by journalists, or based on the findings of scholars on systematic factors that contribute to wrongful incarcerations. There is a lack of social science research on the unexplored meanings and essence of the postprison lived experiences of exonerees exclusively from their perspectives. The purpose of this phenomenological study was to understand and describe the postprison lived experiences of exonerated individuals, 1 year or longer after their prison release. The conceptual framework was guided by Tajfel's social identity theory and Becker's social reaction theory. Interviews were conducted with a purposeful sample of 8 exonerated males who were released from prison 1 year or longer. The data were analyzed using van Kaam's 7-step phenomenological analysis process as modified by Moustakas. The 7 themes that emerged from the data were employment and financial challenges, negative societal reaction, broken family relationships, unresolved emotional and psychological factors, self-imposed social isolation, role of family support, and resilience. Understanding the experiences of exonerees contribute to positive social change by providing knowledge to policymakers and others in the criminal justice system to assist in creating policies to expunge the records of exonerees without the necessity of litigation. Findings from this study also provide valuable insights on the need to offer monetary compensation and social services assistance to exonerees in all U.S. states to help in their reintegration experiences as they transition into their communities.

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