Since the inception of the Walking Free Fund program in the summer of 2018, Proving Innocence has given funds to 41 exonerees for a total amount of $28,450.
When wrongfully convicted persons are released, they literally have nothing. Though there are many programs that help exonerees, nothing is automatic, and rarely is it timely. Proving Innocence (PI) seeks to make an immediate difference by giving the exoneree funds within a couple of days of their release. There are no hoops to jump through. They've had more than their fill of that. We are usually in touch with their lawyer and make sure we have the funds on hand when they are released. We try to have an impact when it matters: when they first get out and have absolutely nothing.
PI is pleased to announce that it has increased the amount it gives to newly released wrongfully convicted persons from $500 or $800 to $750 or $1,000.* (See below for an explanation of the two amounts.)
"Initially, exonerees may be overwhelmed with everything that is coming at them, so we invite family members to be present. The family can help them process all the information we give them well after we are gone. We also ask them to not make any decisions on how to spend the money without conferring with family member or others who have their best interest in mind," says Bill Branham. "I find it to be a very humbling experience. I consider it a real privilege to be there at that point in their lives."
The most recent recipients were Tyrone Rogers of Muskegon Heights in May for $1,000 and Ronnell Johnson in June for $750.
Kate and Bill Branham with Tyrone Rogers
Ashley Craven and Bill Branham with Ronnell and his sister
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*Those who are aided by an Innocence Network member, such as the Michigan Innocence Clinic or the Cooley Innocence Project will eventually receive $2,000 from the Edmundson Walking Fund. Knowing this, we give those not receiving these funds a little more.