by Austin Bunch
This weekend, Life After Innocence and many of our clients will be attending the Innocence Conference in Orlando . The conference is hosted each year by The Innocence Network, an affiliation of innocence organizations of which LAI is part. This year, Life After Innocence will be giving two presentations for the event: one that looks to inform and enable exonerees and innocence professionals to understand, enroll and access healthcare under the new guidelines of the Affordable Care Act; the other is a reentry toolkit presentation that will provide a number of aftercare strategies for the exonerees in attendance and the innocence professionals who work with them.
The reentry presentation will be led by three panelists who have direct experience with exoneree reentry needs and will focus on the different kinds of tools that innocence organizations can use to assist exonerees after they have been released from prison. The session will be an overview of the resources in the Toolkit, in the context of real world examples and experience from panelists and audience members. Discussion will cover exoneree reentry needs and strategies to help them, while employing various items in the toolkit to illustrate, explain and educate. With this presentation, Life After Innocence hopes to provide all involved with exonerations and aftercare with a framework for helping exonerees to rebuild and improve their lives. This is at the heart of LAI’s mission and we endeavor to educate and inform other innocence organizations of this crucial aspect of working with the wrongfully convicted and equip them with the necessary means to provide essential aftercare.
Our second presentation is a joint presentation on healthcare enrollment and criminal records remediation with Jon Eldan of the Althea Foundation. On the healthcare side, we’ll be presenting sobering statistics about the health problems exonerees face while incarcerated and upon release, and providing information on how to best take advantage of the new Medicaid expansion for which most exonerees in participating states will be eligible. The presentation will also highlight subsidies available for those able to afford healthcare marketplace plans. In addition, we will provide further information hosted on our site for accessing community health clinics in those states that have not expanded Medicaid, information on accessing enrollment assistance through the exchanges themselves or through paid enrollment brokers. Our aim in providing this information is to address the immediate health needs of exonerees, which can often be quite serious, and ensure that they have care for the future and understand both the processes for getting care and the terminology used. Through our presentation, we also hope to offer to other innocence professionals the knowledge and capacity to ensure the short and long-term health of their clients, and the ability to apply that to clients who have been free for many years and those yet to be freed.
We’re very much looking forward to our presentations as well as spending time with both our clients and exonerees and innocence professionals around the country, many of whom we count as dear friends. We’re perhaps most excited to be able to celebrate the recent exoneration of Angel Gonzalez with Angel himself, as well as the attorneys from the Illinois Innocence Project and the Innocence Project in New York who worked tirelessly for many years to obtain his freedom.