Former inmates abruptly freed after spending up to six years in federal prison even though they were “legally innocent” are coming home with less help than the government typically provides the guilty after they are released.
Most of them have received little more than a bus ticket. Federal law does not require the government to help them search for jobs or find basic necessities such as clothing and a place to live, assistance the guilty routinely receive during their post-prison supervision, partly to keep them from returning to crime.
Judges in North Carolina have so far ordered the government to release at least 17 inmates in one of the largest episodes in recent memory of federal prisoners having their convictions overturned. It follows a USA TODAY investigation this year that identified 60 people incarcerated for gun possession even though a court later determined that they had not committed a federal crime. The U.S. Justice Department had originally argued that they should remain in prison anyway, but reversed its position last month “in the interests of justice,” according to court records.
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