‘Exoneree Home’ helps exonerees with place to heal, call home after wrongful convictions

“Being an exoneree is a brotherhood because there’s nobody else out here like us,” Charles Jackson said.
Published: Jun. 3, 2022 at 7:03 AM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - When Charles Jackson was released from prison after serving 27.5 years for a murder he didn’t do, he had no where to go.

“I had no sense of home or a sense of belonging, so Exoneree House is just like me,” Jackson said. “It’s just the beginning.”

Jackson lives in Exoneree Home by X Freedom Housing Group.

It’s a Maple Heights house bought by fellow exoneree Raymond Towler for others like them who need a place to live after a wrongful conviction.

Kelly McLaughlin, with X Freedom Housing Group, said for many exonerees, they might get a day notice when they’ll be free.

Some exonerees don’t have anywhere to go, no money, or any kind of support system.

“Maybe you’ve been in prison incarcerated for a crime you didn’t commit for 20 years, and all of a sudden, you’re going to be free tomorrow and you need to have a place to live,” McLaughlin said. “You’ve been away from society for however many years, 25, 30 years and you’re coming home.”

This house is more than a roof over their heads.

“Being an exoneree is a brotherhood because there’s nobody else out here like us,” Jackson said.

Once the euphoria of being home wears off and the cameras stop flashing, the reality of starting over and finding those you can trust begins. That’s why the brotherhood is important.

Jackson has never received a penny of compensation from the city of Cleveland for his wrongful imprisonment.

“It’s people that think I got money, people coming at me for all different angles. They see me on the news and now they want to be my friend, so I got to watch people that’s around me now,” Jackson said.

Exoneree Home has been a lifeline for Jackson and especially for fellow exoneree Isaiah Andrews.

Andrews spent 45 years wrongfully imprisoned.

“I believe sometimes like by him being old, his mind was sharp though, but our minds stay that he still was in prison and I was just his ‘celly,’ I was his cell mate,” Jackson said. “Because we institutionalized and it’s a lot of stuff going on in our head.”

Andrews is the reason Exoneree Home is needed.

Everyone in his life was gone and he had nothing. Andrews was in poor health, bound to a wheelchair, and still bound to the criminal justice system.

While 83-year-old Andrews waited for a new trial, he was on house arrest.

“He wanted to drive a car, he wanted to do all this stuff and he didn’t get a chance to do any of that because they put that ankle monitor on him,” Jackson said. “So the good times that he had left on this Earth he was trapped in this house, so when they released him from prison he wasn’t really released.”

Andrews lived free for only six months after finally being acquitted. He never received a cent from the city of Cleveland before dying in April.

Sometimes having to convince others of their innocence never ends.

“There’s still people who think I got through on some technicalities and stuff,” Jackson said.

For Jackson, it’s still emotional being tied a brutal murder.

“It makes me sad that they think that I did that to their people,” Jackson said. “Everybody knows I ain’t that person.”

Jackson and the other exonerees who will likely live in this house one day will have a place to heal, to fulfill their passions, and continue finding justice for themselves.

“By doing stuff to help people to save lives, to tell my story, and just to serve,” Jackson said. “Because God don’t give you nothing without giving him something.”

Jackson has filed a civil rights lawsuit against the city of Cleveland and several police officers seeking compensation for his wrongful conviction.

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