Flowers, an investigative reporter based in Chicago, offers four vivid, in-depth ethnographic portraits of exonerated prisoners, three of who are from Cook County, Ill.—an area known for its exceedingly high rate of wrongful convictions. Flowers profiles a single mother wrongly convicted of the accidental death of her three-year-old in a trailer fire, a gang member mistakenly picked out of a lineup for a murder charge, a 22-year-old handyman incarcerated on fabricated evidence for arson in a fire where six people perished, and a musician and homemaker set up on a murder charge. She also introduces a Chicago detective with “a city-wide reputation for manipulating lineups and coercing witnesses,” a corrupt police chief who was later incarcerated for lying about police torture, and, on the other side, the lawyers and organizations that work tirelessly to overturn wrongful convictions, such as Northwestern University’s Center on Wrongful Convictions and the Exoneration Project at the University of Chicago. All four exonerees each spent at least a decade in prison, and Flowers highlights how little it took to erroneously convict them as well as the struggle to overcome the stigma of having been in prison as they try to find employment and housing. Through these searing portraits, readers will witness the fissures in the criminal justice system and the damage they cause to the wrongfully convicted, their families, and their communities. (June)
"Flowers, an investigative reporter based in Chicago, offers four vivid, in-depth ethnographic portraits of exonerated prisoners...Through these searing portraits, readers will witness the fissures in the criminal justice system and the damage they cause to the wrongfully convicted, their families, and their communities."
"Every now and then, a tiny crack of light shows through the dark, brutal realities of the US criminal justice system, and a falsely convicted victim walks free of the prison doors after spending decades behind them. But for these former prisoners, exoneration is not the end of the story. It is only the beginning. And Alison Flowers, in Exoneree Diaries, effectively provides the narrative of their lives."
Foreword Reviews, "Book of the Day"
"No author has covered the years after exoneration with the same depth as Flowers does in this disturbing book. She ably shows that even under the best of circumstances, exonerees struggle with family relationships, job searches, recovery from prison-related health problems, adjustments to new technologies, and more. Exoneree Diaries is a thoroughly researched, provocative book of justice gone wrong."
"After their triumphant releases, we rarely hear more about the people whose lives are interrupted by lengthy prison stays for crimes they did not commit... In [these] deeply personal accounts, [Flowers] gives readers a near-complete look at each exoneree’s life before, during, and after prison."
South Side Weekly
"Having experienced the unending nightmare of being wrongfully convicted, and the mind-blowing trauma that hits like a tidal wave after release from prison, I can attest that Alison Flowers has nailed it - and then driven it home. This book will help anyone living with or experiencing profound trauma, and sometimes that's all we can ask for, to have a measure of understanding."
Damien Echols, former "West Memphis Three" death row inmate and author of Life After Death
" Exoneree Diaries is an immersive and powerful journey through the depths of a violent system. These nuanced, vividly portrayed stories bring to life the heart-wrenching experience–and lingering effects–of having one's freedom stolen by the state. This is a beautifully written and urgently necessary book."
Maya Schenwar, author of Locked Down, Lock Out: Why Prison Doesn't Work and How We Can Do Better
"Alison Flowers has written the definitive book on life after exoneration–beautifully rendered, achingly powerful stories capturing with nuance and depth the perilous leap of faith, hope and despair that actual freedom requires of the actually innocent. A rare story teller, indeed."
Pam Cytrynbaum, Executive Director of Chicago Innocence Center
" Exoneree Diaries is a page-turner about the triumph of courage over Kafkaesque injustices that befell a woman and three men who were imprisoned a total of more than eighty years for crimes they did not commit. The stories of how they survived behind bars and coped with the unrelenting challenges of life after exoneration are at once tragic and upliftingand unforgettable."
Rob Warden, executive director emeritus of the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern School of Law
"Alison Flowers has written an important book – filled with vivid, unforgettable stories. Meticulously told through the perspectives of people who have been exonerated, you feel the stress of watching their tragedies unfold with an eye towards redemption. Their experiences will stay in your mind and heart long past when the last page is finished. There is no substitute for great reporting. These pages represent a measure of justice. "
Amy Bach, Executive Director of Measures for Justice and author of Ordinary Injustice: How America Holds Court
" Exoneree Diaries is a powerful, truthful and compelling read for anyone who is interested in the world of wrongful convictions. Alison Flowers has reached into the heart of these exonerees to share their joys, triumphs and sorrows. She is perhaps the first author to delineate the deep agony experienced by exonerees after their freedom has been won."
Gloria Killian, exoneree and author of Full Circle: A True Story of Murder, Lies and Vindication
"Well-researched and written, Exoneree Diaries captures the essence of lives torn apart by wrongful convictions. The stories highlight the multiple failures in our system intended to deliver criminal justice and underscore the resulting human suffering. Kristine, Jacques, James, and Antione continue to move forward despite the wrongs, leaving the reader with multiple lessons in the human spirit’s will to endure."
Frances Lee Watson, director of the Wrongful Conviction Clinic at Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law
“Sadly, most Americans have witnessed headlines, news stories, and dramatizations of failed justice finally corrected, but what happens after an innocent person, wrongly convicted and imprisoned, emerges into freedom following the cruel loss of family, reputation, career, resources, and liberty for years, even decades? In Exoneree Diaries journalist and author Alison Flowers tells the largely untold, fuller personal stories of exonerees. Kristine, Jacques, James, and Antione were all convicted of horrific crimes they did not commit, wrongfully imprisoned, and later released into a changed world. Exoneree Diaries is a compelling portrait of the many people impacted by flawed justice the wrongly convicted and their families, victims and their families, and heroes compelled to invest years in unraveling stubborn miscarriages. Flowers provides a fascinating read with inspiring lessons in courage, hope, and endurance eventually rewarded in bittersweet victories. Because these four cases represent the much larger universe of the wrongly convicted, Exoneree Diaries is ultimately a powerful call to Americans to reform our criminal justice system.”
Jim Petro and Nancy Petro, co-authors of False Justice Eight Myths that Convict the Innocent