‘It’s going to be a culture shock’: Kevin Strickland is free, now what?

Kansas

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (WDAF) — For many, the story of most exonerees ends on the day they are released and walk out of prison, but this day is only the beginning of new struggles ahead.

“They don’t have anything in place for folks who are separated and released back into society,” said Darryl Burton, who was exonerated after 24 years in prison. “When I came home, there was no support system for me. I came home. I was homeless, couldn’t get a job for two years.”

After 43 years behind bars, Kevin Strickland is leaving prison a free man. A judge ruled he was wrongfully convicted in a triple murder in 1978.

“They knew from day one I didn’t commit this crime. They knew. I was an easy mark,” Strickland said after he was released from prison. “Never give up.”

Now he will face new challenges.

“Everything he remembers about society when he left in the 70s, they don’t exist anymore,” Burton said.

“This is going to be like Alice in Wonderland. It’s like he has been locked in a time capsule. It’s going to be a culture shock.”

Burton is speaking from experience. He was exonerated in 2008 after spending close to 25 years in prison, wrongfully convicted of murder.

“I’m happy for him, but I’m sad also. I think about what I lost, but this guy lost almost twice what I lost. When you go in at 18 and come out in a wheelchair? That’s just tragic,” Burton said.

Missouri only offers compensation to people who are exonerated through DNA evidence.

Strickland will walk away with nothing.

Burton’s group, Miracle of Innocence, will help with this transition, from simple things like getting a cellphone to providing counseling.

“Whatever it is he needs, we are going to try to help him with it,” Burton said. “He’s coming home to a world he has no clue about.”

A GoFundMe was created to help Strickland with this process. If you would like to donate, click here. As of 9 a.m. Wednesday, over $315,000 has been raised.

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