Season 2 | Episode 15
May 7, 2020

From prison to pandemic

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Kevin Harrington was exonerated last month after spending 17 years in prison for a first-degree murder conviction. He and his family are overjoyed, but the coronavirus pandemic means freedom looks a little different right now.

A lot changes in 17 years. Sometimes just as much can change in a couple months. Kevin Harrington spent 17 years in prison, serving a life sentence for first-degree murder without the possibility of parole. Last month, he was exonerated — and on April 21, he was released.

Harrington and his family are overjoyed, but the coronavirus pandemic means freedom looks a little different right now. Harrington had been expecting smiling faces and dreaming of celebrating with family, gathering for big meals. But as of Monday, there were 99 confirmed cases and five deaths at Macomb Correctional Facility in Michigan, where Harrington was held.

“Coughing, faces looking flushed… and you can’t even get the test, for the most part,” he said. “You have a roommate that stays right there with you, so you couldn’t avoid it.”

To protect his family, just in case he was infected with coronavirus and asymptomatic, Harrington chose to spend two weeks self-quarantining in a hotel. He’s been enjoying the little things: long showers and getting food delivered.

And he’s figuring out how his new life will look. He just moved into a new apartment. Next, he’ll apply for a driver’s license and start thinking about work. Harrington is considering opening a consulting firm, applying to law school or becoming a personal trainer.

It can be challenging for people who serve time in prison to readjust financially, even for those who were wrongly convicted. There’s a 17-year hole in Harrington’s resumé, there’s new technology for him to learn and a pandemic upending the economy.

Harrington might get some compensation from the state of Michigan, but that’s another legal battle. In the meantime, his legal team at the Michigan Innocence Clinic set up a fundraiser to support him as he reacclimates.

This week, we’ll spend some time with Harrington and his family and look at what it’s like reentering the world after almost two decades locked up… while the rest of the world is locked down.

By the way, Marketplace is in the middle of a really important fundraising drive right now. Most media outlets have taken a hit because of the pandemic, and we’re no exception. We know not everyone can afford to give right now, but if you love the show and you are in a position to donate, we would really appreciate it. Even a small, one-time gift goes a long way. You can donate and find more information here.

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The team

Megan Detrie Senior Producer
Hayley Hershman Producer

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