Midwest Innocence Project continues advocating for wrongly convicted prisoners after they’re freed

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- After Lamonte McIntyre’s release on Friday after 23 years in prison prompted many questions in the community, including: what’s next?

On Monday, Richard Jones met with FOX 4. Jones, or perhaps his mug shot, may be familiar to many from the summer of 2017. He served 17 years from a crime he didn’t commit. Now, he’s trying to start over.

But, as he told FOX 4, it’s hard. He can often be found in the office of the Midwest Innocence Project. The organization advocated for him when he was in prison and now that he’s out of prison.

“Just how fast it is out here,” Jones said Monday, “just everyday living.”

Life moves pretty fast these days for Jones, which is tough for a man who spent 17 years on prison time.

“I just got to get used to the everyday living,” he said, “which I am, slowly but surely.”

Jones still occasionally struggles to catch up on 17 years of life he missed. With the fast pace of life today, it can be hard - especially for a man whose photo made headlines around the world while he was still behind bars at Lansing Correctional Facility.

“Japan, Germany, like, everywhere,” he said, still in disbelief. “It went viral. It went - I was trending... I didn't even know what those things meant.”

He’s had a speaking engagement since his release in June, but he hasn’t been able to find a full-time job.

“You gotta pay bills and things of that nature,” said Jones. But then he added, “it's so fast out here. I'm used to seeing the same thing every single day, and I'm so conditioned to myself to be a certain way.”

He added, “to be out here and living the free life, it can get overwhelming.”

The executive director of the Midwest Innocence Project wants to change that. She has seen three of her clients exonerated. And she sees how unfairly the system treats them, even after they are free.

“Any (one who has)been released on probation or parole,” said Tricia Bushnell, “they would've been provided more services than if they were exonerated.”

She spoke of McIntyre, who was just released on Friday after 23 years in the Kansas Corrections system.

“In addition to getting out with no job experience, no work history for 23 years, no credit, no residential experience, which you have to explain to an employer, your conviction turns up when they run a background check.”

So Bushnell, along with others in her office, spend a great deal of time working with her newly freed clients to change that. She is also working with legislators in both Missouri and Kansas to come up with a compensation package for the wrongly convicted.

And Jones is working to change himself.

“Seventeen years is gone, it's done. I'm not getting it back. I've just got to live best as I know how now... and I can't do that if I'm mad at everybody.”

Kansas currently has no compensation for the wrongfully convicted. Missouri will pay $20 for each day a person was in prison, if they were exonerated by DNA evidence.