By the age of 62, Christopher Williams had spent 25 years on death row for murders he didn’t commit. When he was finally exonerated, he came home to Philadelphia with hopes to start a business and employ other formerly incarcerated people.
But less than two years after that victory, he was gone.
Williams was paying his respects at the funeral for another formerly incarcerated man in his community. As he exited his car after the funeral procession, he was fatally shot.
According to some key studies, people coming out of prison are almost 13 times more likely to die during their first two weeks post-release. Overall, the death rate for formerly incarcerated people is 3.5 times the rate than those who haven’t experienced incarceration.
Homicide is a leading cause. But so are suicide, drug overdose, and chronic illness. “The judicial system was set up to punish us with more passion than it used to protect us,” wrote Williams’ friend Akeil Robertson-Jowers in January. “[B]ut we need something different.
The prison system doesn't hold people accountable or address the root causes of violence. We have the power in our communities to organize around why people hurt each other and how we can effectively end that hurt and keep each other safe.