Tuesday, January 20, 2009

New Orleans exoneree starts business

Today, a historic day, I'm conflicted on whether to post at all, as it might draw attention away from the momentousness of Mr. Obama's inauguration. I've decided, then, instead of posting a somber policy discussion or critique of the prison system, to post a feel-good story out of New Orleans.

Rickie Johnson was wrongfully convicted and incarcerated in Louisiana's notorious Angola prison. Rather than resign himself to his fate, he dedicated his time to learning about how to run a business, and discovered he had a penchant for leatherwork. In January of last year, Johnson was cleared by DNA testing in the case of the 1983 rape for which he was convicted. He was released soon after, with the dream of opening a leather goods store.

Johnson's dream came true on Jan. 14, when he opened R.J. Leather Shop in Leesville, La. The grand opening came on the one-year anniversary of his release from prison...

[Johnson's] new shop, which is open six days a week, has handmade belts, wallets, purses, Bible covers – anything you could want made out of leather, he said.

It's heartwarming to consider success stories like this one, of people not only vindicated by the system, but able to become a productive member of society. It gives me hope for present and future exonerees, that a markedly better life is still open to them after their innocence is proven.

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