Finding my way through the New York State Prison System, I would think about what life was like living in Texas. Most of my thoughts of Texas I admit were stereotypical in nature, but other thoughts were based on my research of wrongful convictions in the United States. I noticed the State of Texas was the leading the country in exonerations; of course, that was because the state falsely convicted (and some would argue) wrongly executed innocent people. I was surprised by the large number of exonerees from the state because for a very long time I thought of Texas a state that simply locked up folks and threw away the key, and of course one that also took great pride in their executions. While my opinion of Texas might not change, I certainly believe it is a place that can compares to the legal system in New York. While Texas is known for it’s high number of executions, New York exonerees should feel extremely fortunate that New York does not have the death penalty.
I’m not sure if my entire opinion of Texas will ever change. I traveled to San Antonio for the annual Innocence Network Conference and I must say that it was totally different than last year’s conference in Orlando. Perhaps, location had something to do with it. The hotel is located in downtown San Antonio in a very vibrant area. The hotel is located steps from the Alamo. I have been to some wonderful places since my release from prison in 2014; the Alamo would have to rank high up there. The one regret that I have is that I did not go inside the Alamo. Not surprisingly, people seemed to flock to the Alamo. I was surprised to learn that the Alamo closed its doors at 5pm, but the area remained a haven for tourists. The Alamo is beautiful at night with the lights illuminating the front of the building. While it is not New York City, which has more than a few landmarks itself, San Antonio was nice. San Antonio reinforced that each place is different; and of course, has its own history.
I would hope that anyone who visits San Antonio for the first time would find their way to the River Walk. What a place, especially at night. Obviously I heard about the river Walk, but to be there in person blew me away. It’s definitely a place that I would some day like to bring my girlfriend Valerie. I know she would love it! I spent the majority my time at the Alamo and the River Walk; they are literally steps from one another. In some ways, I’m glad that I did not explore other parts of the city. For instance, had I made my way to a mall or something, I would have probably spent money that I didn’t have. I was told that one has to be very careful about travel. I had the opportunity to meet the San Antonio Spurs coach Greg Poppovich but I didn’t take it. He was surrounded by so many people. Living in New York it’s nothing to see a celebrity walking down the street, even in lower Manhattan were I work. He seemed to be a very nice man. He was patient with all the people who approach him took pictures with some exonerees.
One of the things that I love about the Innocence Conference is that they offer workshops in public speaking, re-entry, social services, support groups, etc. Last year I participated in a public speaking workshop sponsored by the Moth that appears on National Public Radio (NPR). This year I participated in two workshops, most notably was the workshop discussing finances. It is important for me to learn as much as I can about finances. Participating in this workshop was very helpful because I learned in nearly three hours how to get a credit card and how to establish credit. The workshop is also necessary because the Innocence Conference is aware that most exonerees are in a position to receive compensation. That said, I was surprised by the small attendance.
At the conclusion of each conference, exonerees and attendees at the closing ceremony are given a preview of what to expect the next year. San Diego is the place next year which had many people buzzing. For me it was way too early to think about San Diego as I must address some very important businessl before the conference next year.
Tune into my next entry to hear about this important business.