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Prisoners Share Stories About Their Freedom

New York magazine interviewed several former inmates and asked them to describe their first hours or day of freedom. These men had been wrongfully convicted, but their first taste of freedom is no different than that of the guilty—or even those who have been forgiven by Christ. So pick your favorite quote, or two, or use all three:

Jeffrey Deskovic, age 41, spent 16 years in prison. He was freed on September 20, 2006:

At times I wasn't quite sure whether I really was out and free. I felt like a finger was tapping me on the back and saying, "What are you doing? They belong out here, but you don't. They don't really realize that you don't." So I just did something that I wanted to do for a long time: I wanted to sit outside in the nighttime and not have to go inside … I could see a few stars and the lights on in some of the other houses. It was just a minor thing that had been taken away from me.

Fernando Bermudez, age 46, spent 18 years in prison. He was freed on November 20, 2009:

The first thing I did, I went running in Inwood Hill Park … where I had all these childhood memories of wanting to be a geologist. I used to pick rocks and collect insects before I became less of a nerd and more a person in trouble. I'm coming off my run, and I'm doing something I had sorely missed: I'm looking at a tree, and I'm just admiring it. I had been deprived of nature for so long … I finally got to feel the bark. I was crying hugging the tree.

Derrick Hamilton, age 49, spent 21 years in prison. He was freed on December 7, 2011:

The day I walked out, my wife, my nephew, and my son was in the car waiting for me. There was a church right around the corner. I would always listen to the bells ringing when I was in jail. I didn't even know where the church really was. But I would pray when I would hear the bells. It was my only opportunity to pray at the same time people on the outside was praying. When I got out, that was one of the first things I wanted to do, just go around and pray in that church. I went in and thanked God for my release … Going into that church, it was like being born again.

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