Loyola University Chicago

School of Law

About Life After Innocence

Life After Innocence (LAI) is the first ever program devoted to assisting exonerees—innocent people wrongfully convicted and eventually exonerated. LAI provides legal and social services to help exonerees begin their lives anew. Upon release, an exoneree will receive fewer state services than a rightly convicted, admitted murderer who served the same time. Although the average person believes exonerees are compensated abundantly by verdicts and settlements, a third or less will ever receive a civil award. While Illinois is one of half the states in the nation to provide some compensation for innocent, the amount is minimal and can take years to receive. As Barry Scheck said at the LAI luncheon last year, “In the innocence world, we now realize that starting over is the hardest part of the exoneration journey.”

At LAI, Loyola law students work closely with Illinois exonerees to change the otherwise bleak picture exonerees face when walking back into a society they barely recognize. Loyola students litigate certificates of innocence, achieve expungements, and search for housing, employment and medical assistance, among many other things. By doing so, LAI meets another important need of exonerees: someone who believes in them. Students also work with Springfield legislators to change the post-innocence laws and explore the reasons for wrongful convictions to correct the problem in their own practices.

Formerly a civil trial lawyer, Laura Caldwell, is director and founder of Life After Innocence at Loyola University Chicago School of Law. LAI was inspired by one of her clients who sat in a holding cell for nearly six years without a trial. Caldwell and a renowned criminal defense attorney ultimately won his release, and their story was captured in Caldwell’s first nonfiction book, Long Way Home: A Young Man Lost in the System and the Two Women Who Found Him.

Articles about Laura Caldwell and Life After Innocence:

Megan Fahey Monty is the Adjunct Professor for Life After Innocence. Megan received her J.D. from Loyola University Chicago School of Law and was admitted to the Illinois bar in 2014. During law school, Megan worked as a 711 Law Clerk for the Cook County Public Defender’s Officer. Megan worked with LAI as a student in 2013 and 2014 and sat on the Alumni Board after graduation. Megan currently serves as a Judicial Law Clerk in the Law Division of the Circuit Court of Cook County. 

Life After Innocence is staffed and sustained by law students at Loyola University Chicago School of Law. The current student members are:

Alejandra Barcenas

Katie Burnett

Brianne Dunn

Bethany Dixon

Jordan Fries

Jeremy Gnanapandithen

Sarah Patarino

Ashley Stead


Qualifications for Consideration to Loyola’s Life After Innocence Group

Loyola's Life After Innocence clinic will consider clients who meet the following requirements:

  • Any person that was wrongfully convicted of a crime and served part or all of the sentence ("Wrongfully convicted" refers to cases that, after being overturned, were either nolle prosessed or rendered a not-guilty); or
  • Any person that was unjustly arrested, received a not-guilty verdict, and spent at least 5 years in jail awaiting trial.

Life After Innocence does not accept clients who have had previous convictions for violent crimes, including, but not limited to: rape, murder, attempted murder, kidnapping, or armed robbery.

* Regardless of these requirements, Life After Innocence ultimately retains discretion in deciding whether to accept a client to its program.

Jarrett Adams, adjunct professor for LAI, is a recent graduate of Loyola University Chicago School of Law and a Wisconsin exoneree who served nearly 10 years for a crime he did not commit. Jarrett also currently works for a judge in the 7th Circuit.