Culture shock

Kevin Strickland is free, now what?

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (WDAF) – For many, the story of most exonerated ends the day they are released from prison, but that day is just the beginning of new struggles to come.

“They don’t have anything in place for people who are separated and released 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 find a job for two years.

After 43 years behind bars, Kevin Strickland is released from prison as a free man. A judge ruled he was wrongly convicted of a triple murder in 1978.

“They knew from day one that I had not committed this crime. They knew. I was an easy target,” Strickland said after his release from prison. “Never give up.”

Now he will face new challenges.

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

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

Burton speaks from experience. He was exonerated in 2008 after spending nearly 25 years in prison, wrongfully convicted of murder.

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

Missouri only offers compensation to people exonerated by DNA evidence.

Strickland will walk away with nothing.

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

“Anyway, we’ll try to help him out,” Burton said. “He’s coming home to a world he has no idea about.”

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