Wrongfully Accused Man Who Spent 24 Years in Jail Helps Other Innocent People after His Release

Willie T. Donald, who spent 24 years behind bars for wrongful convictions, helped other exonerees with the support of Dr. Nicky Jackson of Purdue University Northwest.

A wrongfully convicted Willie T. Donald was sentenced to 60 years in prison in 1992 for murder and armed robbery. Due to this, he missed important family events, such as his sister's wedding and father's funeral.

After he was released from jail, Donald had nothing to his name, no savings, no car, and very few work prospects. His life was challenging in new ways. "I'm just trying to survive," he told People.

Man in jail. | Photo: Pexels

Man in jail. | Photo: Pexels

In February 2016, shortly after being released from prison, Dr. Nicky Jackson, an associate professor of criminal justice at Purdue University Northwest in Hammond, Ind., reshaped his life.

Adamant about assisting Donald and other exonerees who sit unjustly in prison, Jackson set out on a quest to enact justice in the way they thought it should. Donald got a part-time job and a car with her help.

For almost two years, Jackson advocated for exonerees with local officials. She even met with state Rep. Greg Steuerwald, who passed a law in 2019 that compensates them for their traumatic prison experience.

It is Jackson's friendship that enables Donald to get through the most challenging days.

With Jackson's partnership, the Willie T. Donald Exoneration Advisory Coalition was established to assist Donald and others like him. Like many exonerees, Donald felt ill-prepared for today's technologically-driven society.

Despite earning two college degrees while he was in prison, Donald had difficulty mastering small things, such as the Keurig coffee maker he encountered after his release.

It is Jackson's friendship that enables Donald to get through the most challenging days. He said that not everyone has a Jackson in their life. He added that she had helped him in his most difficult times.

Regarding Jackson, she said she feels the same way. Possibly more than Donald's life, Jackson claimed hers has changed and become more interesting. Moreover, she noted that he had given her so much.

In related news, after spending 22 years in solitary confinement, Anthony Gay wanted to ensure no other prisoner in Illinois would ever be subjected to the trauma he went through.

The Anthony Gay Isolated Confinement Act attributes Gay's public image to the measure. The bill calls for restricting solitary confinement to no more than ten days each six-month period.

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